Family business

Martin Rundqvist Torsvägen 61 B, 133 38 Saltsjöbaden Sweden

This is a short adventure designed to send the characters on a romp through Gondor’s rural backwaters. It can take place at any time in Gondor’s history. Numbers and weapon skill are not crucial; cleverness is a stronger asset. The only prerequisites are that the characters must own at least one horse, that they must end a day’s travel through Lamedon in the middle of nowhere, with no inn as far as the eye can see, and that they must look and act peacefully enough to be admitted to the home of an average farmer (which is where they enter the plot).

Lamedonrim culture

The people of Lamedon are of Daen stock, although in most respects they have been culturally integrated into Gondor for several centuries. They are rugged, down-to-earth, and mainly concerned about the practicalities of life. There are, however, certain aspects of life which the Lamedon-rim take especially seriously: control of one’s flock and control of one’s family.

The sheep and goats of the Lamedonrim are ear-marked to show who owns them, but the lambing season presents the opportunity to steal other people’s lambs before they are marked. This is a favorite sport among the young men, and enables them to prove their doughtiness to their elders. It also leads to a certain amount of quarreling between landholders, although vendettas no longer rage in Lamedon since Gondorian law put a damper on the Lamedonrim temper.

To avoid intricate subdivisions of the family land, the Lamedonrim practice an inheritance system in which the eldest son of each family gets the right to the land, employing his brothers and men from poorer families to help with the flocks in exchange for shares of the produce. A man may leave the family land with his share of the flock, but this is uncommon since a flock cannot be kept without land to graze upon. Few rural Lamedonrim would be prepared to sell their sheep and do something else for a living.

The inheritance system and the need for assistance with the flocks lend a very strong importance to marriages between the landholding families. Alliances of trust and of property are forged through marrying one’s children to well-chosen spouses. This, however, is a perennial source of frustration to young people who have other things in mind than strategic pasture management. When all else fails, a nubile maiden may be abducted by her beloved, whereupon the young couple is invariably pursued the length of the land by the woman’s brothers. The traditional resolution of these dramas is that the young couple stays in hiding until the woman is pregnant, after which her father is confronted with a fait accompli, and a hopefully acceptable bride price. He rarely refuses it.

Map of Lamedon

Map of Lamedon

Northwestern Middle-earth Map Set #7; reprinted with permission

A tale of star-crossed lovers

Edla is the younger daughter of Eskil and Virnia, Lamedonrim farmers whose homestead lies a few miles of the River Ciril. Edla is tall and skinny, with glittering brown eyes in a plain face framed in chestnut hair. She is in her early twenties, and thus eligible for marriage. Her father has consequently negotiated a marriage for Edla with Wilfer, the eldest son of Eskil’s southern neighbor, Brakas.

The trouble is that Edla does not like the dour and uncouth Wilfer. Several years of brief, clandestine meetings with Adrin Enarion have instead convinced her that he would make a good husband. Unfortunately, all Adrin can hope for is a meager co-ownership of his family’s rather measly property, and this makes him a less than splendid candidate from Eskil’s point of view. Eskil has put his boot-heel down on Edla’s hints, but she is a stubborn person, and this is a very important matter to her.

Adrin is the youngest of four brothers, and about Edla’s age. He is a thoughtful young man who spends a lot of time musing while the sheep dogs do his work. He is not exactly dashing, but handsome enough, clean-shaven with an unruly mop of black hair and blue eyes. He completely agrees with Edla about whom she should marry. He has actually asked his father, Enar, to discuss the matter with Eskil, but Enar has refused on the grounds that Eskil’s answer would be all too predictable.

Hallas Benokion, son of a neighboring farmer, has been Adrin’s friend ever since the first childhood afternoon they spent sorting out their mixed-up flocks, and now Hallas has volunteered to help Adrin and Edla consummate their love by pulling the old abduction trick.

Enter the characters

The characters are traveling through Lamedon. It is near nightfall, and the last inn is three miles back. Inn or no, the party needs night lodgings, and over a crest in the road an inviting farm turns up. It might do.

When the characters dismount, a man comes out of the house. It is the owner, a middle-aged farmer named Eskil, and he asks the party’s business. After some haggling he agrees to house and feed the characters and their horses for about half of what it would have cost at an inn. If the characters look poor, he asks to be paid in advance.

Eskil’s is a typical Lamedonrim family farm, and the description also fits the neighboring farms of Enar, Benok and Brakas pretty well. The farms lie a mile or so apart. The only atypical characteristic of Eskil’s farm is that it is not located near the river; instead, it happens to be near the point on a road where the characters decide that they need to find lodgings for the night.

The main building is a U-shaped, single story stone house with a thatched roof. The living quarters are in the left wing. The central part houses a stable with two mules, a cart and tool shed, and the right-wing is used for storing fodder and wool. Other buildings include a dairy shed, a chicken coop and a privy. If the river turns out to be distant, a well is found between the wings of the main building. Near the houses are several large pens used for the shearing of sheep and goats, which takes place in the spring. A couple of fenced fields of modest proportions can be seen some way off.

Most of the living-space in the farmhouse is taken up by a single large room, with a big hearth at one end (the mules are on the other side of the wall). Built-in benches around the walls double as beds, and a large table surrounded with wooden stools occupies the middle of the room. At the other end of the room are found the doors to the master bedroom and the larder (locked). Odds and ends of everyday life are stored under the benches and hang from hooks in the not-too-lofty ceiling. Two looms flank the table. Outdoor clothes are hung on pegs in the wall to both sides of the entrance. A ladder on the wall opposite the entrance leads through a hole in the ceiling to the attic.

The stable has room for three horses beside Eskil’s mules, and the rest are put in a corral near the house. (Saddles and harness are most likely put in the stable, but an interesting question is where the saddle-bags end up. Try to establish this without alerting the characters’ suspicions-one method is to simply inform them that saddles, saddle-bags and harness are left in the stable,” hoping that they will not contradict you. Anyway, they will not be able to bring the horses into the house.)

Inside, the characters are served mutton stew, coarse bread, white cheese and goat’s milk, and Eskil and the women of his family encourage them to tell stories of their travels. Most of the year, all of the young men are out with the flocks, and will not be present at the farm. Eskil proudly reveals that his daughter Edla is going to marry the heir of the neighboring farm in a week. He beams at his daughter, who smiles tensely and eats little. Her mother Virnia tells her comfortingly that she also had misgivings before she married Eskil, but points out that it was not so bad. Everyone laughs. However, sensitive characters note that the girl still is troubled.

The evening passes, and bedtime arrives. The characters are assigned bunks in the attic. Whatever young men may be present retreat to the barn, but the eldest son, his wife and his sister sleep in the main room below the characters.

Night passes uneventfully. A cautious character with acute hearing might hear muffled sounds in the darkest hours, but nothing alarming. Probably just someone off to the privy. (If a character tries something stupid, like making nightly advances on the daughter or Eskil’s possessions, the whole house will be awake in a matter of minutes and Eskil will appear stark naked, swinging a wood-axe over his head. But that is a different adventure, which is left to the improvising skills of the gamemaster.)

The morning after

The characters are wakened in the early morning by agitated voices, above which can be heard an apparently outraged Eskil bawling: The damn girl! Oh, when I get hold of her! Damn!”

Bedraggled characters stumble down the ladder and confront the family. Eskil tries to explain, now and then pausing for an outburst of curses, that his daughter has apparently chosen to elope during the night on the back of one of the characters’ horses! To boot, she seems to have rummaged in the saddle-bags, if they happened to be in the stable. If so, she will have taken dried food, small amounts of money, and any pretty baubles that adventurers might possess.

While the characters eat their breakfast and adapt to the new situation, Eskil rages and behavior, but begs the characters. Virnia tries to placate her guests. She is visibly deeply shamed Virnia tries to placate her guests. She is visibly deeply shamed over her daughter’s outrageous over her daughter’s outrageous behavior, but begs the characters not to take any hasty action; Edla will surely be back soon with what she has stolen. Her brothers will find her, it will not be hard since everyone knows the reason for her disappearance.

Edla has often spoken with enthusiasm of Adrin, a son of one of the neighboring families. He, however, is not a good match. Edla is scheduled to marry a fine young man in a week’s time, but she has shown by all means that she does not like the prospect. She must certainly have run off with Adrin somewhere, and it will not take a minute to find them.

At worst, the wedding will have to be postponed for a week, but Edla’s future husband does not have to learn the exact reason for this. Virnia earnestly begs the characters to have mercy since the future happiness of her admittedly shameless daughter is at stake.

Adrin turns out not to have left his home the crucial night, and no trace of Edla can be found linking him to the outrageous act of disrespect. Actually, his friend Hallas has escorted the young lady to a shepherd’s hut where Adrin can join her as soon as the coast is clear.

The characters may (with a bit of sleuthing) be able to find out what has happened, and reach the young couple just as they are assaulted by the girl’s brothers. At this point the characters have to choose sides in the family conflict and try to get their stolen possessions back. Their motivation for meddling in family business is the fact that some of their valuable equipment is on the run without them. This particular chase is intended to force the characters to take the scenic route through Lamedon, which they might otherwise miss.

Confronting the suspect

When the characters have eaten and dressed, Eskil calms down a bit. He soberly admits that what has happened is an outrage, and refuses to accept payment for food and lodgings. (Any advance payment is returned.) 

Eskil invites the characters to join him in fetching his daughter, although they may stay loafing about the farm if they choose. Eskil puts a crude saddle on one of the mules and rides off north to Enar’s farm, where he raises a scene and demands that he be allowed to search the premises. Old Enar is completely ignorant of the youngsters’ scheme, and is thus first dumbfounded; gradually, however, he grows angry as Eskil stomps about his farm.

Adrin’s alibi is that he has been at the farm with his whole family throughout the previous night. Eskil shouts at him and tries to give him a beating, but is prevented by Adrin’s older brothers. If the characters came along to Enar’s, they might involve themselves in the proceedings, or they might just stand around and watch the fireworks. In the end, Eskil begins to suspect that he might have jumped to the wrong conclusion. He sheepishly apologizes to the bristling Enar and rides off home after one last piercing glance at Adrin, who for some reason looks pained and worried.

The search

Back at his farm, Eskil proceeds to call his sons — Pickor, Erling, and Joar — back home with the flocks, intending to send them out to search for Edla. Eskil plainly states to the characters that he intends to compensate them for the stolen property; but that he has not got a lot of money at the moment. His suggestion is that they stay at the farm for a couple of days until Edla and the stolen goods are found, or (at worst) so he might be given time to borrow enough money.

No self-respecting adventurer will spend these days just waiting for the stuff to reappear. The characters will most probably begin an investigation of their own, while Eskil’s sons also do what they can to find their delinquent sister. (The characters might even join forces with the brothers.) The characters will be one short in mounts, but may borrow one of Eskil’s mules as long as he does not get the impression that they intend to keep it and never come back.

With a bit of questioning, the characters may learn what is common knowledge: that Adrin’s best friend is named Hallas Benokion, where Benok’s farm is, that Wilfer Brakasion is indeed rich but not a particularly nice guy, and that there are lots of folk-tales about young people eloping rather than marrying according to the wishes of their parents.

Exactly what they will learn depends on what they ask, and the gamemaster has to dish out a fair bit of irrelevant information. Apart from the easy pickings, the potential sources of information are Adrin himself, and his talkative, six-year-old niece Pilva.

Privately, Adrin is unpleasantly surprised that Edla and Hallas stole the characters’ horse, since this involves strangers and might send them all to jail. He will not confide in the characters, but might be tailed the night after Eskil’s loud-mouthed visit, as he rides up to the shepherd’s hut to confer with Hallas and Edla (which will be very hard for anyone without Elven-sight or an intimate knowledge of the area).

Pilva has overheard a conversation between Adrin and Hallas, and knows that Edla is probably up in Benok’s sheep-shack on the mountain.” This she willingly divulge only to a sympathetic character who takes the time to ask properly.

Hallas’ own family knows that Hallas is up to something, since he has borrowed a mule and made some strange comings and goings. However, they do not know what he has been doing. This they will tell to characters who identify themselves, establish some kind of trust with them, and ask for the young man.

Depending on the season, Hallas will most probably visit his home only briefly, hurrying back to his sheep when Adrin and Edla are installed at the hut. He will not tell the characters anything, but will ask them a lot of questions to ascertain their intentions. (This inquisitiveness might strike the characters as suspicious.)

A good tracker may be able to follow the stolen horse’s tracks a bit from Eskil’s farm, and will perceive that Edla was accompanied by another rider when she left. The tracks point roughly north, but not the way one would choose if one were heading for Enar’s farm. (They point more or less towards the shepherd’s hut, but cannot be followed for very long. The horse is kept next to the hut out of view from the valley, but the telltale wisp of smoke from the fireplace of a shepherd’s hut with no sign of any sheep around it may appear conspicuous. The main obstacle to the investigation is simply that the characters most probably are strangers without knowledge of the land — Benok’s sheep shack” might be any one of ten shacks a mile apart.)

If, along the way, the characters should become soft-hearted at the predicament of the two young lovers, complete success will not only be a question of regaining stolen property, but also of somehow relieving the tension of the age-old family drama. Characters who look for a happy ending must understand that Edla will have an extremely hard time once she is marked in the common mind as a horse-thief. (This fact may complicate their investigations, since they will not be able to tell their informers exactly why they are asking questions.)

Le Grand Final

Benok’s shack is one of the innumerable simple huts that accommodate Lamedonrim shepherds out with the flocks. It is located in a high meadow on Hallas’ father’s land. The hut is not likely to be visited for at least the time it takes to get Edla pregnant (which is why Hallas chose it for his friends). Depending on the season the meadow might either be newly grazed by goats or just plain withered. The hut is an unfurnished, single-room stone structure with a sod-roof. The hut is reached on a narrow goat-path just level enough to permit the passage of a horse.

Adrin joins Edla and Hallas at the shepherd’s hut the night after Edla’s escape. The three of them have a heated argument about the horse-theft and its implications, but can find no sensible course of action. Hallas leaves before dawn, returning Adrin’s mule to Enar’s stable. Edla and Adrin are in low spirits but see no other possibility than to keep the horse and follow their initial plan of consummating their marriage in advance.

The characters will probably find them in a couple of days, either by themselves or in the company of Edla’s brothers. If the characters have searched on their own, the brothers may conveniently find the hut only a short while after them, thus creating an interesting situation.

No matter who finds them first, Edla and Adrin will panic. Unless the pursuers are very careful, they will be noticed in advance, and their quarry will try to escape. Since the only sensible escape route is down the path, it will take some mighty fancy footwork from Edla and Adrin on the stolen horse to get past the approaching danger. They simply will not make it.

Pickor, Erling and Joar want to seize their sister and beat Adrin up thoroughly. Adrin wants to get out of the nasty situation, preferably together with Edla. Edla too wants to get out, but since it does not seem very likely that she will, she may threaten to kill herself with a knife.

Neither Adrin nor the three brothers wear armor, but all wield hooked shepherds’ staffs with some precision. The characters must understand that Pickor, Erling and Joar are ordinary and pretty nice Lamedonrim men acting according to grim tradition, hence it would not be a good solution for any armed characters to hack them down. (Pickor even has a pregnant wife).

If the characters simply stand back, an unpleasant stalemate will ensue, with Edla pointing a knife at her chest, Adrin lying beaten on the ground, and the three brothers unsure of what to do or of how seriously to take Edla’s threat. But, since characters rarely do stand back, almost anything might happen. The ending will be up to their wits and intuition.

Possible outcomes

Solutions might include a famous and/​or wealthy character tangibly blessing the union between Edla and Adrin, thereby compensating somewhat for Adrin’s meager economic means or at least putting a weight of outsider prestige behind the match. If the characters are to effect a happy ending, they will have to face and convince Eskil, a situation which may inspire some good role-playing.

At best, the characters might continue their travels with all their stuff, leaving behind them the happily married Edla and Adrin somehow reconciled with Edla’s family. (This would provide the characters with a set of loyal friends in Lamedon who may come in handy in future adventures.)

If the characters cannot find the young couple (and the gamemaster feels that they have had their share of gentle nudges in the right direction), Pickor, Erling and Joar return one evening to the farm with Edla, the horse and any of the characters possessions that were stolen. Edla is bruised and apathetic, and the brothers curtly explain that Adrin was the culprit but that he will be no nuisance in the near future (which is correct, if Adrin lies unconscious outside the shepherd’s hut with a lot of broken bones). Edla will be married to Wilfer, unless word spreads of what has passed (in which case she will never be married at all, and the adventure ends on a note of despair).

From a practical point of view, one might conclude that this means the characters might as well lay back from the start and wait for their stuff to return, but this they cannot know in advance. Anyway, descriptions of Edla’s bitter fate will make them feel their failure.


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