Previously, the Warden caravan left Cymru and met a new member. Here they continue west, stopping at a workgang camp and are called on to server the Law.
GURPS 4th edition has a great line called Social Engineering. If I ever manage to stop being broke, I need to get the others in this series too though I have new hardbacks to get first.
Social Engineering:, Chapter 3 proved helpful in running contested social situations. During the Trial, I let the jurors ask questions because otherwise it would be boring and it came down to Dinty using Diplomacy and Goreal using Intimidate vs the witness to gain enough information for the jury to make their decision.
The temple of Manoc, god of the sea and storm, occupied the center of the village, while a small shrine to Abadar, the god of trade, had been newly built outside the Two-headed Weasel. The villagers were a mixed lot, mostly human and halfling, though a few half-orcs and undine also lived and worked there.
The old road continued close to the coast, but as the caravan cuts north of the village, the sound of hammers striking stone and chanting could be heard. The wagons came to a stop in a palisaded area to the west of the inn. Women and men of all races, dressed in simple work clothes, cut stone into regular squares.
Edwina and Otso climbed down from the wagon to stand near Dinty, Nikala, and Goreal. “Work gangs,” Edwina said, her face pale. “Criminals, homeless, debtors, you name it. All sent to the gangs.”
“And in this case,” Otso replied. “It seems they are building the new road.”
Hal Saldana made his way back from the three covered wagons in the center of the caravan. Removing his helmet, he wiped his eyes. “You’ve been volunteered by me,” he said slowly. “Well, some of you.” He looked up at the squad. “The commanding officer here, Major Ennis, has asked us for volunteers for a jury. Apparently some gangers are accused of desertion and in the interests of fairness and in keeping the work gangs calmer, they want outside jurors not guards.” He pointed to Edwina, “You’re too young,” and then to Otso, “And you would just free them no matter what.”
Otso nodded. “True.”
“There will be a few others from another one of the wagons, but Dinty, Goreal, and Nikala this ought to give you a lesson in how Cymru expects the army, work gangs, and wardens to behave.” Hal continued. “Get something to eat at the mess tent. After, supper we'll have the trial there. Dismissed.”
The caravanners set their tents to one side of the compound. As they finished their campsite, the workgangers returned from their day. It had grown dark and several small fires burned around the compound. The sky was cloudy and heavy with no light from the stars or moons. They lined up outside the mess tent and were soon shown inside. The camp guards and the wardens were given preference over the gangs in who eats when and what.
The food was plain: corn gruel, some burned rabbit, and hard bread. Nothing which looked appetizing to the garuda, but Nikala had eaten his own kill earlier. Goreal ate enough for four to five, while Dinty ate what was set before him. Edwina picked at the rabbit and Otso ate his corn gruel without comment.
The gangers arrived as the camp guards and the wardens were eating. Spotting Dinty, Otso, Nikala, and Goreal, several of them murmured unhappily.
Edwina watched the gangers and swore quietly. “That was almost me.”
Dinty nodded. "Aye, it almost was. The gods are pushing you in a different direction now and Desna saw fit that I save you from that particular fate for now. We’ll see what she has in store for the poor souls that we are to sit in judgment of."
Turning toward Dinty, Edwina seemed thoughtful. “Thanks, Dinty. I guess maybe Desna has some ideas for me after all. Maybe I should talk to Hal.” She looked up. “They’re cleaning up the tables but everyone is staying. Maybe the trial is about to begin.”
As the gangers cleared away the tables and plates, another group brought in a table and set it to one end of the tent. Soon the camps officer, Major Ennis, an aging human man, told everyone to rearrange their benches to face the table. Another bench was provide for the jurors.
A robed grey-bearded dwarf arrived with a large leather book locked in iron chain. He sat at the table, unlocked the book, and called a guard to bring him several papers. Major Ennis walked through the crowd to direct the jurors to the benches.
Goreal, as large as he was, sat on the floor beside the bench, while Dinty, Nikala, a dwarf from their caravan, Quintin, and a gnome, Galna took their seats.
The crowd of gangers and guards murmured unhappily as Goreal, Dinty, and Nikala walked to the front.
“Be silent.” The dwarf at the table said without looking up. “I am Magistrate Jean Bordeaux. You are all hear to witness the trial and verdict related to three accused deserters.” He shuffled some papers and turned to the jurors. “We do have any legates here to speak for the law or the accused.” The Major shook his head. "Very well."
Sizing up the jurors, he turned to look at Major Ennis, then back to the jurors. “I will introduce the accused. I will question them. You, jurors, may ask questions of me to pose to the jurors should I feel the questions are of a serious nature.” Staring at Goreal and Nikala, “Do you, jurors, understand what is asked of you and are you capable of fulfilling this requirement?”
Dinty, with a confused look plastered on, shook his head in the affirmative. Nikala remained silent, his eye on the Major as he spoke. He cocked his head in apparent confusion, but kept his words to himself. Goreal seemed tense. He nodded though his discomfort apparent.
Hal Saldana stepped forward. “Perhaps for all of us you might explain things more fully, your honor.”
|Magistrate Jean Bordeaux|
Dinty raised his hand. "Are the accused either horses or dogs?"
The dwarf stared at Dinty. “I’m sorely tempted to have you flogged. However, to answer your question. No. No horses or dogs.”
Dinty nodded. "Then yes, I can be impartial in my judgement."
“I will be fair.” Goreal said awkwardly. "I didn't expect my first order to place me on a jury, but I am determined not to disappoint."
“Nikala will apply the rules of honor. They have no emotion, no heart. Nikala will not let instinct guide him, only reason.” The garuda shifts one eye around the room, looking at the men in front and beside him. “The Wise Night Flier asks we do not always listen to our hearts, so Nikala will not listen.”
Quintin and Galna also agreed, so Magistrate Bordeaux beat his stone gavel and called for the prisoners. The rear tent flap opened; several camp guards marched in a human with his hands bound in front and wearing leg irons. Bordeaux read a slip of paper. “Walt Durgman.” He motioned to a bench opposite the jurors.
Next the guards brought in a similarly bound half-orc (ur-akesh). “Arlin,” the magistrate read.
The final prisoner brought forth was a black-scaled kobold. “Meepo.” The kobold blinked as the magistrate read his name.
With the three prisoners seated, the magistrate turned to the jurors. “Any questions you find relevant before we begin?” he asked.
The gnome juror, Galina, raised her hand. “Could we know the basics of this case, sir?”
The magistrate nodded. “Of course. These three, accused of desertion, were assigned to tree-cutting duty. An evening a week ago, they went into the woods and did not return.” He made a note on the page and continued. “A search party with dogs was sent out the next day and after two days of searching the three were found.”
Galina nodded. “Probably the kobold’s fault,” she whispered to the dwarf juror, Quintin.” He did not reply.
Dinty whispered to Goreal and Nikala. "I'm sure there's a joke about a human an half ork and an kobold walking into a tavern." Then to the magistrate he asked. "Good dwarf, was there not a guard watching over these three? If not then, why?"
Magistrate Bordeaux stared expressionless at Dinty for a moment, then nodded. “Major Ennis. Please come forward. We have questions for you.”
Major Ennis, looking surprised, came forward. “Sir, if I had known you wanted me to be a witness I would have dressed in my…”
The dwarf waved his hand. “You are not on trial here, Major.” The major swore on the articles of the republic and then stood in the center of the room facing the magistrate. To his left were the jurors, while to his right sat the accused. Bordeaux continued, “Is it common practice to permit workgang members to wander off by themselves?”
Major Ennis looked ahead, his eyes stared hard at the table. “Independent duty is permitted under the rules of the work gang, sir. The three were assigned to independent duty for tree cutting to provide firewood for the camps.”
The dwarf nodded, wrote in his book, and began to speak, but stopped and looked over at the jurors again.
Goreal cleared his throat, “Y-your Honor, what reason did the three give for their…” Goreal concentrated “missing?” He looks slightly uncomfortable after finishing his sentence.
Magistrate Bordeaux turned to the accused and called on Walt Durgman. “You gave the first account. The court wishes you to repeat it.”
“Well,” he continued. “Meepo helped us find a place to make camp and wait the goblins out. We, got hungry and caught us some coney’s and was roast ‘em for dinner when the search party found us. I told all this to the Major. We was all armed, but we didn’t put up no fight when the search party found us.” He sighed and looked around. The magistrate motioned for him to sit.
“Did the Major find any proof of goblins in the area?” Goreal asked, getting more comfortable with the situation.
The magistrate nodded. “Bring up Corporal Roburin.” A few moments later, a halfling guard stood before them and was sworn in. “Corporal, you are an assigned scout with the guards and led the search party after the missing workers.” Pointing to the jury, “The surprisingly wise bear has asked if you found any signs of goblins.”
Goreal seemed very pleased by the magistrate’s complement.
The halfling spoke without hesitation. “We found signs that goblins and bandits had been in the woods beyond, but the marks were older. I found no bodies. No blood. No sign of violence where they had been chopping wood.” He turned to the accused. “There were attempts to hide their trail as Durgan said, though I found overturned rocks in the stream.” He continued. “The accused were found at a makeshift camp under an overhanging cliff. They’d cut brush to hide the entrance. They had been hunting and were cooking rabbits just as Durgan said.” He paused and looked at the accused and the magistrate. “When my men approached, they greeted us. They did not run and offered no resistance. Durgan told us about the knives and he told us the goblin story.”
The magistrate nodded. “Thank you for now, Corporal.”
He turned to the tent. “We will take a short break. Jurors you will be escorted to another tent to discuss the case. Do recall that a decision will be made for each prisoner individually.”
The accused were led away through the rear tent flap, while the jurors were led the other direction. One of the gangers mumbled. “Savages deciding our fates,” under her breath.
The guards led Dinty, Goreal, Nikala, the dwarf, Quintin, and the gnome, Galna to a small tent with a table and some benches.
Dinty offered when they were in the tent. "It's true goblins do have a keen nose and if a large group were after them it sounds like they would have had little trouble tracking them. Wild goblins would have a few trackers as good as the halfling in a large party. I think they manifested the gobo from thin air to suit their needs." Looking at the other jurors to weigh their reaction, he continued. "The scout sounded capable enough, he didn't seem to think the tracks were very fresh and he only saw them in the area. He didn't say the tracks were following the three. Which they would, at least for a time till they lost the trail."
The gnome, Galna, nodded. “I say hang them all. Especially the kobold.”
“I would like to hear what the other two have to say since we are judging each of them.” Goreal sai with a grunt.
Dinty agreed. "We need more to make a proper decision, but I dunno like what I'm hearin'":
Nikala stood against a wall, his eyes on the floor, where they remained even as he began to talk. “Ran from battle. Why not circle around, try to find the rest of the brood, come back? One hunter is weak, and sometimes even three cannot bring down big ground-walkers.” Nikala looked up at his fellow jurors. “Confusion? Or running?”
The dwarf, Quintin, who thus far had been silent spoke. “Mostly, I could care less about the accused’s guilt or not.” He pulled out a small pipe, filled and lit it. Taking a deep inhale, he blew smoke rings into the room. “Does it matter,” he said finally, “who they are or are their actions all we need to know?” He shrugged. “I’m willing to hear from the rest as the bear suggests, but this whole thing sits poorly with me.”
Galna stared at Quintin. “I’m surprised you aren't taking this more seriously, dwarf. I would have thought you would be concerned about discipline in the work gangs.”
Quintin only shrugged. They all waited quietly.
By the time the guards returned the jurors to the mess tent, the moon had begun to set and the camp was much darker though Quintin, Dinty, and Goreal had little problem seeing in the dim light.
Once again seated on or near the juror’s bench facing the accused, they waited on the magistrate. The kobold, Meepo, looked tired and his eyes darted about the room. Walt watched the jurors, while Arlin stared at the floor.
Finally, the magistrate, Jean Bordeaux, returned, and they were ready to resume. Goreal asked to hear from Arlin and Meepo, and the magistrate agreed.
Arlin stood slowly from his bench and shuffled to the center of the room. “Do you have anything to add?” Bordeaux asked.
The half-orc shook his head. “No, it was just like Walter said.”
“I see,” said the magistrate. Next he called Meepo.
The kobold approached the center of the room slowly. He smacked his mouth dryly. The lantern light of the tent made his black scales shine. “Well,” said the magistrate, “what about you?”
Meepo looked at him with a start. “Huh?”
Magistrate Bordeaux cleared his throat. “You charged with desertion. That means leaving the camp without permission. Do you have anything you’d like to say?”
Meepo looked confused. “We no leave camp without permission. We gets permission to cut trees.”
Bordeaux shook his head. “How did a kobold end up on a work gang?” He turned to look at the Major. “Meepo, have a seat. Major take the floor.”
Major Ennis returned to the position in the middle of the room. “How did this kobold end up in the work gangs?”
Ennis nodded and opened a leather journal. “Accused of starting a fight in a tavern about a year and a half ago.” The room chuckled. “When he was caught, he had stabbed another bar patron with a knife. Assigned post trial to a work gang for three years. He’s been in a few fights since he arrived, nothing serious. Overall, Meepo is obedient, but not very bright.” Bordeaux leaned back and looked at the jurors.
Dinty raised his hand. "Did Meepo see any goblins or did he just continue to do as he was told?"
Walt Durgman looked at the Dinty with an expression of surprise and irritation. Arlin did not look up from the floor. Meepo blinked and looked at Walt and Arlin.
The magistrate cleared his throat. “The accused Meepo will answer the question.”
The kobold started at the magistrate and then at Dinty. “Meepo has no idea what he is to say.” A harsh murmur broke in the crowd.
Dinty asked. "Whether or not he truthfully saw any goblins, if he speaks true then he has done a good job."
Dinty asked. "Meepo, why are you crying?"
As Meepo continued to sob, Arlin, the half-orc, looked up. His face set, he started at Dinty then the magistrate. “Dammit, leave Meepo alone. He had nothing to do with this.” Walt Durgman turned to look at Arlin.
The gangers began talking at once. Magistrate Bordeaux slammed his stone gavel onto the table, shouting for the guards to quiet everyone.
Magistrate Jean Bordeaux shuffled his papers. The room had quieted down by the time the deep rumbling voice of the shmkia asked. “Does Arlin have something new to add?” Goreal wonders, “If not, would questioning of Meepo in a more private setting be allowed, as it looks like he may be afraid of the others on trial.”
Nikala turned his gaze to the outspoken accused. “You would save yourself a great mark on your honor by not allowing this small one to suffer for his silence,” he said. “If you wanted to go far away, to leave, the crime would not weigh so heavily if you were to speak to this one's innocence.”
The half-orc, Arlin, looked over at the magistrate. “I’d like to add something, your honor.” The dwarf nodded. Arlin stood slowly, tired, and walked to the center of the room. Walt stared at him, his mouth held tight. “I’ve been in the gangs about five years now,” Arlin began. “You can ask the Major. “I came in when I was a kid. Got involved with some toughs in Cymru. We knocked over houses, bashed heads of the owners. Got caught and sent to the gangs for ten years.”
He looked around the room. “Now, I ain’t saying this so you will feel sorry for me. I just want you to know where I came from when I say Meepo’s ok.” He looked over at the kobold sobbing quietly. “He had nothin’ to do with any of this. It was all Walt’s idea.”
At this, Walt Durgman jumped up and rushed Arlin. He began to choke the half-orc, yelling. “Why you little…..” when the guards grabbed him and held him down.
Arlin, now free, coughed. “I didn’t know you could run so fast in leg irons. Huh.” He coughed again. “Walt got us on tree-cutting. Was easy for me to get on it. Walt thought Meepo’d come in handy if we needed to hide.” He turned and faced the jury. “If we did our jobs right, Walt said we could join up with his old outfit in the north.” Facing the magistrate, he continued. “That idea beat the hell out of busting rocks for five more years.”
Sighing, his shoulders sank. “I suppose I deserve to hang. I’ve hurt some people. I knew we was goin’ to run. But there’s no way the kobold should. He didn’t do nothing wrong. Meepo was scared when we told him, but Walt said he could go home.”
Arlin returned to his seat and sat with his head down. The guards led Walt out of the room then returned for the half-orc and kobold. The gangers, the wardens, and the guards were silent. “Very well,” the magistrate began, “take the jurors to their tent to come to a conclusion.”
Dinty, Nikala, Goreal, Quintin, and Galna filed out of the mess tent. As they passed the wardens, Hal Saldana stood near the aisle and nodded to them. Once in the mess tent, they were provided with a pot of hot tea, cakes, and pipe tobac.
Quintin, the dwarf, lit his pipe. “It’s a hell of a thing.”
Galna, the gnome, took a cake. “We should hang all of them as a warning.”
Nikala shook his head. “Hang the little one, no. Would you hang a messenger from another nest who brought ill-tidings?” He absentmindedly smoothed some feathers as he spoke. “The Tusken spoke the truth. Admitted to desertion of the brood. But hang him, and hang also any chances of your brood bringing these matters to your attention.”
Dinty replied while eating cake. "I say we hang the human, flog the orc and give double duty for two months to the kobold! They're all guilty of something, but they don't all have to swing."
Goreal nodded. “I agree, that seems a wise and fair decision Dinty.”
Galna looked around annoyed. “Well, I still say hang them all, but I agree with the goblin.” She laughed. “Never thought I'd say that.”
Quintin poured himself some more tea and relit his pipe. “Wasn’t so long ago we found bird-person here stealing and killing livestock. Why’s he different?” Quintin took a deep puff. “Your Edwina was guilty, but she's in the Wardens.” Quintin sighed. “I’ll support your decision. Better we move on quick.”
A few feathers on the top of Nikala’s head raised, as if in protest. “Nikala was only hunting. But yes. The Tusken’s crimes are lesser. He has only the desire of freedom and not the sense to see where that desire leads him to folly.” Nikala paused. “These grounder work gangs, maybe they have bad ideas. Maybe.”
Dinty finished his cake. "Then it's decided, let's let em know we're ready to write all this down."
Quintin put out his pipe and called the guards for paper, ink, and a quills. He began writing, pausing to sharpen the quill. Finally, when he was done, he read the verdict to the jurors. Corrections were made, and they called for the guards a second time.
Late now, the gangers, the guards, and the wardens stared bleary-eyed. Quintin told the magistrate they were ready, then stood in the center of the room, and read the verdict.
Walt Durgman cried and thrashed as he was sentenced to death by hanging. The guards held him down as the magistrate announced he would be hung at dawn. They afterwards led him away.
Arlin nodded when he found he was to be flogged and not hung.
Meepo cried and thanked everyone when he learned of his double duty for two months.
Finally, the gangers were led to their bunks by the guards, and the wardens came to congratulate Dinty, Nikala, Goreal, Galna, and Quintin for making it through the ordeal.
Magistrate Jean Bordeaux informed the jurors that they were expected to be at the hanging in the morning. He then stopped Dinty, Goreal, and Nikala on his way out and congratulated them on their keen insight during the trial. He told them to contact them if they had any questions.
The 18th day of the month of Equos, 22 years after the opening of the Caers: in a workgang camp north of the village of Hygom, two days west of Cymru
The next morning, just before dawn, the guard, the workgangers, and the wardens stood around a gallows erected that morning. The jurors stood close by, while the magistrate waited on top.
Walt Durgman, escorted on either side by a guard, walked out of a distant tent toward the crowd. His legs seemed like jelly and his face even paler than the night before. As he approached, the crowd could see his legs were restricted by a length of rope just long enough for him to slowly walk and his hands were bound.
Lifted onto the scaffold by a pair of guards, he stood blinking as the dawn broke over the horizon. Major Ennis took Walt to the rope and placed it around his neck.
“Any final words?” the magistrate asked.
The crowd looked on: the guards bored, the gangers tense, the wardens with mixed emotions. Otso stood nearby dressed in his formal robe, waiting to perform Morrit’s rites. Edwina watched the sunset on the trees instead. Hal Saldana stood at attention staring past the events.
Hal Saldana remain silent, standing next to the wardens. Walt cried and yelled. “You’re making a big mistake,” then the trap door opened and he fell, neck audibly snapping.
Nearby Edwina, looking ill, turned and walked away. Otso spoke with the magistrate that had climbed down the ladder and agreed on rites and burial.
Dinty turned to Hal. "Cap’n, excuses sir. I think we should bring on the half ork. He’s loyal to a fault and would be loyal to us if we gave him a bit of freedom. He could join me squad of irregulars! And if he runs I'll hunt him down myself and fix that mistake."
Saldana turned to Dinty and smiled. “Excellent thinking, Corporal. I’ll arrange it with Major Ennis. Did you want the kobold too?” he asked watching Walt’s body swing.
Nikala nudged Dinty a bit. “Nikala could find use for a small grounder. More eyes. He would not be disloyal, fareah.”
Dinty shrugged. "Having the kobold along would help cement both their loyalties and they often make good scouts, plus I think Nikala wants a pet. He says with a wink at the bird-person."
The paladin nodded. “I will speak with Major Ennis.” He turned to them. “Otso will be performing funeral rites soon. Assist him and then we will begin packing.”
Dinty nodded. "Aye sir, I head over to Otso and ask him what needs doing."
Once they had gathered at the grave site, Otso instructed the men to set Walt on the canvas beside the hole. He anointed the swollen face with scented oil from his bag. “Ideally, he said. I would have liked time to strip and wash the body, but this will have to do.” Removing a stick of incense from the bag, he stuck it in the ground and lit it from a flint strike. The heavy smell of sandalwood soon covered the site.
“On, Dancer of the Dead, Piper of the Dirge, today we send you Walter Durgman. His time in the physical plane has ended again, we way pray you return him to the the marble palaces that lay beyond our world where he will wait his return. May he remain in the Wheel until his journey is complete.” Otso sprinkled flowers on the body. “Protect him from the curse of undead, guide him in his voyage, and may the next time he returns see him wiser than this.”
Otso motioned to the guards and they lowered the canvas into the grave. He took a handful of soil and tossed it in. Then began walking back to the camp.
At camp, the half-orc Arlin, shirtless, stood tied to a central pole, while Major Ennis approached with a whip. The cracks and grunts filled the morning air just as the hanging had an hour before.
Otso looked on the scene with a drawn mouth. “I will have to put him back together enough to travel. I suggest he ride in the wagon today, Dinty.”
Dinty nodded. "If that's what you think is best. We need him up and mobile, sooner than later. He's no good to us on his front in a wagon. He's your responsibility until then Otso."
Once Arlin had been flogged, Major Ennis directed the camp guards drag him to the last wagon of the caravan. There Otso had prepared a space for the half-orc to lay. Praying, spreading lilac petals, he washed Arlin’s torn back and sealed some of the wounds. A quiet kobold sat on a box at the rear of the wagon.
“Alright, Dinty,” Hal told him marching to the three central wagons, “time to go.”
Dinty said. "Alright, you heard the good paladin. We're movin out. Time to bring up the rear. Keep it tight you lot."
The conflict in this mostly boiled down to the party using contested social skills to convince Meepo and Arlin to tell them more information.
Goreal spent some points to add Magistrate Jean Bordeaux as a Contact. It's only 6 or less right now, but he can increase it later.
The PCs received a free point in Law (Cymru) as well.
I highly recommend GURPS Social Engineering.
The story continues in Fragments of the Last War 2.3 - Caravan to the Frontier: Part 3, A Camp by Night.