In the cool autumn air, Brega walked towards the Midnight Rooster, the only lodgings in the small town of Wibblesham. Her dark robe was muddy from six months of wandering. Weighed down by her pack and pans, she leaned on her intricately carved staff and paused taking in the mix of overground houses and round doors set into the hillside.
As she neared the inn, her thoughtful hazel eyes noticed a familiar figure stood with an unknown companion on the wooden boards that kept customer’s feet dry when entering the Midnight Rooster. Hailing Aelfric, whom she had grown up in the same village with before they had both been forced on the road half a year ago, she quickened her pace to the door. Soon Aelfric had introduced Brega to his companion who he had travelled with from Tharbad. Alvi, a red-headed bard, was one of those women who made a room light up when she entered. So it was not long before the three sat with a the remains of a supper before them; Brega and Alvi swapping stories; Alvi playing a quiet tune to entertain the tavern’s other patrons.
Come the morning, the three are sat breaking fast together when they are approached by a hobbit wearing a blue goose feather in her hat. She introduces herself as Shirriff Mally Nation. She has been granted leave by the village moot to recruit additional shirriffs to help with shepherding of refugees to safe areas. The village of Wibbleham is not rich but can cover the cost of board and food while they are shirriffs. Seeing a chance to save coin and have a place to rest for a while they work, the adventurers agree.
The first task is to escort a group of refugees to a safe ravine because Shirriff Mally believes that there is a risk of Corn-skin fever, a deadly disease, amongst the refugees. Guiding the emaciated refugees along the road to the new campsite, the party notice one particularly healthy Dunlending. He protests vociferously about the treatment of his people and they are being prevented from moving on. However, Alvi talks eloquently to the unhappy, hungry and weary people about how they are going to be looked after if they follow to the camp and without fuss they refugees move to the prepared quarantine campsite in a narrow ravine.
The adventurers are tasked with guarding the refugees and bringing food to the camp. Brega uses her skill in cooking to create warm hearty food for the refugees and earns favour with the refugees. Still, there is the odd attempt by one or two refugees to escape and find extra food or perhaps somewhere else to live in peace. None get far and Aelfric proves himself to be a capable athlete in chasing down the errant refugees.
Whilst resting in the Midnight Rooster the adventurers hear of talk from some of the local farmers of the theft of livestock. Mally not having spare shirriffs to dispatch to investigate sends Alvi, Brega and Aelfric. At each farm, the tale is the same: they believe that the refugees have taken the lamb or calf that has been stolen. Yet at one farm a clue is discovered, young Semmi Midtoe looks uncomfortable when his family are questioned about the missing lamb. Alvi and Aelfric eventually manage to win his trust and he reveals that it was his pet lamb that was stolen by Betwin Proudfoot. Which is strange because Betwin was buried yesterday.
Confused but unconvinced by the youngster’s description of the deceased hobbit stealing a lamb, the party return to the Midnight Rooster for the night. During the evening, an irate hobbit, Marco Chubb, interrupts their rest demanding that the shirriffs investigate the cruel practical joke that had been played on his daughter Daisy. He tells of how some cruel prankster, pretended to be the recently departed uncle Clarfew and leered through the window at poor young Daisy, quite distressing the hobbitling. Initially, the recently conscripted shirriffs are unwilling to investigate immediately yet after much pleading they eventually agree.
At the Chubb farm, Aelfric finds signs of an intruder but the party are unable to track the intruder. However, they discover that Grandmother Minna has also seen her son playing with the family cat that day. She is most distressed that no-one had told her of Clarfew’s death. This and the presence of the remains of said family cat cause the shirriffs to question the Chubb family further. In doing so they discover that Uncle Clarfew had in fact been secretly trading with the refugee camp and had also contracted corn skin fever. Faced with two recently departed hobbits, the shirriffs soon discover that two more “associates” of Clarfew had recently died and been buried quickly in the village graveyard. With this new information, the deputy shirriffs set off for the graveyard.
In the dark it proves hard to find more than four graves with recently disturbed earth; returning at first light the investigators find a trail leading from the graves into the wood. In the depths of the woods in a small dell Brega, Alvi, Alefric and Mally discover the source of the livestock losses in the form of four hobbit ghouls. Trapping them in the hidden lair it is only a matter of time before Aelfric Smithson with the aid of Alvi Craigsdottir have dispatched the evil but ineffectual undead. Thinking about the refugee camp it becomes clear to Brega that Firdok, the rather healthy and vocal refugee, may also be infected with the corn skin sickness. She explains this to her companions and they plan to capture Firdok without causing risk to the remain refugees.
With a cauldron of stew, the shirriffs return to the camp and without causing alarm to manage to convince Firdok through Alvi’s clever words to come with them to see the new site of the refugees’ village. Before Firdok has time to realise the deception, Aelfric strikes him from behind stuns him to the floor. Fearing that Firdok may recover quickly, Alvi plays her flute and causes Firdok to fall into a deep sleep. Soon Firdok is bound and secured in the village gaol. The town mayor and Shirriff Mally are extremely grateful to the adventurers and promise to hold a trial to determine what to do with Firdok, who is clearly a ghoul but equally has continued to try and support his family and tribe of refugees.
Just a postscript on this adventurer log. This was the first game my family had chosen to play and that in itself was a strange experience given that previously they had shown no desire to play when invited. The start was rather awkward as it often is with new players trying to get over the self-consciousness of playing for the first time. However, I also had to deal with the scepticism of “this won’t be fun and will be weird” and it also being my wife and kids at the table, who it must be said found it tricky to deal with the change in roles and dynamics (as did I). Eventually, once we had got past the embarrassment and also the realisation that it was up to them as players to direct the story, it turned into quite a good game. I am not sure how often they will play or if they will join the main campaign, but at least they enjoyed it and we didn’t end up with one big argument.