Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Sundays in the Shire #3: The Great Radish-Nobbling Scandal

As I recently posted, I've had a hankering to play 'Under Hill, Over Water' a game I played  once during lockdown but not again since.  My regular group agreed to give it a go, and we had our first session this week.

The Village 

Hayton-Below-Rime a town of the Eastmarch, perhaps not as renowned as some places, but then again, We don’t go around crowing about ourselves like Some People do.  Everybody has to admit that we’re solid, respectable folk in these parts. 

The Players 

  • Thornberry Tunneler (Dorcas).  A locksmith with a dream to investigate the ruins Beyond the Hedge 
  • Branon Oldbairn (Matt). A beekeeper who wants to open his own Mathom-House. 
  • Ebinezeer ‘Ebs’ Rumblo (Jo).  A tax-collector who wants to meet an Elf and learn one of their songs. 
  • Awena Sandwallow.  A wainwright who is keen to be included in her Aunt’s will. 
  • Bit Gaggler.  A comley shepherd who wants to publish a volume of genealogy. 

Spring 1246 CA - Set-Up

A Worrisome Thing 

Janna Diggle’s garden has been pilfered in the night. Is the culprit a hare or a young radish-stealing rascal?  She offers a substantial reward to resolve the situation. 

Current Event 

The Spring Faire is coming! 

The Word is that... 

The beer at the Lion & Troll in Bramble Gate is actually quite good this season. It might be worth a nip over to taste it, if your local landlord doesn’t find out about your treachery. 

Personal Complications

I forgot to roll complications for the Players!

Our Session 

The Players started with a few post-work drinks and dinner in The Wooden Baby.  They half-heartily debated trekking all the way to Bramble Gate to try the beer at the Lion & Troll, but that seemed like rather hard work when everyone knew that The Baby had the finest ale in the Commonwealth (which prompted another round of Baby’s Best). 

Instead, they decided to do something to help Janna Diggle solve her radish problem.   They had a few ulterior motives here.  First, Janna was a member of the Matronly Order of Good Manners and friend of Awena’s Aunt Dora.  Secondly, she and Bit were in the middle of a neighbours’ dispute which he wanted resolved (Bit had complained about her smoke drifting over their fence, and Janna had told the Matronly Order that he was behaving in an uncouth and un-Halflinglike manner by disparaging the traditional art of pipe-smoking).  Thirdly, Janna was the servant of Berylla Hogspen, a tax-collector with whom Ebs had a less-than-professional rivalry. 

So they headed over the river to Janna’s hole, first taking the precaution of buying some mints from Rigsby the landlord in an attempt to hide their beery breath and sending Bit back to his own hole, where he could observe the garden from his back parlour.   Janna was initially put-out by their appearance at such a late hour, but Branon persuaded her that as the interference was taking place at night, it was necessary for them to bend the rules of social intercourse.  His gallantry impressed her (quite a lot it turned out!), and she accepted his offer to stake out the radish-patch and catch the thief. 

Janna had her own ideas about the Dreadful Crime.  She felt that this sort of hullaballoo was indicative of the decline in good manners amongst Young Halflings and needed to be stamped out (the Matronly Order had raised this with the Shirrif, but no action had been taken!).  In particular, she blamed her new neighbour, a rough sort of fellow with no feeling for the Old Ways.  In fact, she was able to point him out to Branon as he was lurking in a dark room spying on them at that very moment!  Branon, Ebs and Awena all agreed that he seemed a shady character, worth investigating.  Ebs and Awena, in particular, praised the good work of the Matronly Order. 

Ebs, Awena and Thornberry withdrew to Awena’s hole for a late snack and a night of pipe-smoking and plotting while Branon prepared for his lonely vigil.  [One nice mechanism of the game is that if players provide a suitable song or poem at the table, they can give a fellow an advantage on a role – Jo and Dorcas sang an eating song.]  It turned out not to be too lonely though, as Jenna soon appeared bearing a blanket and tray of coco and crumpets.  Branon then demonstrated his Knack, which allow him to light a wand that throws a light that only he could see.  [At this point, members at the table collapsed amidst comments about Branon’s “knack with wood”.]  Branon was perhaps a little too relaxed following Janna’s visit and lit his pipe.  Unfortunately, this rather highlighted his position to all-and-sundry.  The Radish Bandit made no appearance that night. 

Next morning the Players decided to see what the word on the streets was.  Talk of the matter had flown around Hayton.  There were three theories going the rounds.  Some (mainly members of the Matronly Order) agreed with Janna that this was mindless vandalism, and indicative that the Commonwealth was going the Heck in a Handbasket.  Others pointed out that the Spring Faire was coming up, and that Jenna had won the Prodigious Produce (Root Vegetables) Competition for the last two years with her prize radishes.  [Cue another collapse amidst mutterings about the length and girth of Jenna’s radishes.] They preferred to think of sabotage rather than vandalism.  The third group didn’t care and thought that Janna was an interfering old biddy who deserved everything that she got coming to her.  They pointed out that, despite all her crowing, she’d only won the radish competition twice, unlike Hamson Cubber, who’d had a 10-year record of success. 

While talking to the townsfolk, Bit was able to gather a few anecdotes about his family. 

Awena and Thornberry concentrated their efforts on Awena’s Aunt, Dora Sandwallow.  Like Awenda, she'd become estranged from the family for not joining the prestigious family firm of Sandwallow, Bevin, Greene, Bevin & Co.  She was pleased that they were helping Jenna, who was a fellow member of the Matronly Order (it turns out that Dora was a Past-President of the Order).  Like Jenna, Dora was a prize-winner at the Faire - frequently winning the Meetest Meal (Preserves Division) competition.  Awena immediately offered to help Dora however she could: Dora suggested that any rare ingredients for her cooking (perhaps a hogshead of fine ale - “For the kitchen, of course!”) or for weaving (natural dyes and “as much horse urine as you can get”) would help. 

Branon, Bit and Ebs visited the Mathom-House.  There a group of Keepers were enjoying a pipe and a glass of wine while looking at their latest acquisition.  The Head Keeper, Morris Keighly, was particularly impressed with Branon’s appreciation of a prize numismatic specimen – a gold piece.  Now in a generous mood, Mr Keighly was happy to show off his knowledge of Elves to Ebs and tell Bit about a member of his family who had been a Keeper and deposited the family archives in the Mathom-House. 

Re-grouping in the Wooden Baby and exchanging news, the Players felt that they had achieved a good day’s work.  Thornberry allowed the wild, Alwin side of his nature to emerge and decided that the way to get rare ingredients for Aunt Dora was to stage a raid on Farmer Cotton’s fields!  Other, more sober [sic] heads pointed out that he was notorious in dealing with poachers, and perhaps they should just ask him if he would trade.  

Plans were made for catching the Radish Bandit.  These ranged from alarms to pit-traps to covering the radishes with a coloured dye.  In the end, the dye path was adopted. 

Next day they visited Farmer Cotton.  Although known as a friendly fellow, this only extended to non-mushroom matters.  He distrusted the Players on sight and called his dogs Pouncy, Gripper and Bitey.  He had no need of Awena’s offer of free wagonage (“What kind of farmer doesn’t have his own cart?”) or Thornberry’s offer of labour (“I knows all about these pick-your-own tricks!”), but his eyes lit up when Ebs suggest that he might get a tax rebate.  He relaxed enough to stand the dogs down and show them Ol’ Bess his blunderbuss.  In addition, it turned out that Bit’s grandfather had taught him all he knew about dealing with mushroom-poachers!  He was able to provide a few mushrooms and Awena and Ebs found some red berries on the way back to the village. 

After high tea, the Players went back to Bit’s hole.  As a shepherd, he was well-versed in making a dye that would stain any radish thief.  They presented the plan to Janna, who appreciated the fact that Bit had made the dye (and was rather more impressed to realise who his relatives were – she was able to tell him about an ancestor who married the daughter of a Thain).  The trap was laid. 

Early next morning there were signs of tampering in the radish-beds.  More importantly, there were red Halfling footprints – the plan had worked!  Branon volunteered to stay behind and tidy up the mess while the others followed the trail.  They crossed the bridge and went up the hill.  The tracks led into the Bear & King and another, more winding, trail led out.  Eventually, they came to a hole they knew to be Hamson Cubbins’.  Their banging on the door was answered by an elderly Halfling who had just sat down to first breakfast.  He protested but had clearly been caught red-footed!  

The spectacle of an old gaffer being unceremoniously dragged through the town in his dressing gown was only heightened when his pig Missy decided to join the procession.   When they got to Janna’s, her door was answered by Branon in a dressing gown (she insisted that it was because he’d got dye on his clothes while cleaning up...).   Hamson eventually confessed to sabotaging the radishes in order to regain the championship. 


Jenna's radishes won the competition.  She was was pleased with the work the Players had done in solving the Great Radish-Nobbling Scandal and rewarded them with a silver piece each.  Impressed with Bit’s family connections, she dismissed their dispute and a miscommunication.  She seconded Aunt Dora’s nomination of Awena as the newest member of the Matronly Order.  She owes Thornberry and Ebs undetermined favours.  Finally, she invited Branon to tend to her garden whether he wanted [ultimate collapse of table into sniggers]. 

Hamson Cubbin, who had been totally humiliated in full sight of the whole town and received a lifetime ban from the Faire swore to “get even with those pesky kids!”. 

The Keepers of the Mathom-House were impressed with Branon’s astute eye and welcomed him as a member (subject to him paying his subscription).  They were also pleased with Bit placing his family’s famous watch on Permanent Loan at the Mathom-House and allowed him access to their archives.  This allowed him to get the final information necessary for him to Complete his Dream of publishing his book of genealogy.

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