Pre-Episode M1 / Pre-Session 1
Episode M1 — The end of postnoon, Colsday, the fifth day of Astral, 88 AD
The first duty assignment of the Second Digit for the new year is set to begin at sunset: a one week stint of night duty. Over the next few hours the various members of the Second turn up at the armory, and those who haven’t already provided their own equipment are given access to a set of somewhat low quality arms (spears and short swords) and heavy leather jerkins with caps. Leather armbands denoting membership to the Second are distributed to those that did not get one at last night’s kneesup in the Red Wyrm. For the benefit of newcomers (or those too long away), Sergeant Blennith Thickskin tries to run through a few basic march formations and then it is time to raggedly line up in Dragon Square along the northern portico. A bored looking Guard Captain , the master of the upcoming ceremonies, sits in his saddle gazing at not much of anything while his horse wanders around the square.
Three times a day simple rituals, the “Passing of the Baton”, mark the supposed transition of responsibility between the different militia Digits. At dawn, the current Day Digit relieves the Night Digit. At noon the Baton is passed to a successor Digit who takes on the Day responsibility. Finally, at sunset, the Night Digit returns to receive the Baton for the night. Once a week, on Colsday, the noon ceremony also marks the transition of the week-long Night Digit designation, marked by passing an iron chain bandoleer between the Digit captains.
On occasion, the Day Digit would overnight out at First Post, which required their departure before noon and extend their duty beyond noon of the next day. In fact that had been the lot of the Second on it’s previous day duty, its last of the old year. The activities of the marauding orc band that had the previous week harried in-bound dwarf caravans and burned out several farmsteads seems to have resulted in this occasional practice becoming the norm, at least for the time being. Essentially, the Day Digit now covers almost two full days, being on duty far beyond the nominal noon to noon responsibility. And the noon ceremony takes place without the presence of either Digits’ members or officers, with a formal handover being supplanted with a simple announcement from the bastion of the Dragon Gate that a transition has occurred.
The official handover ceremony, supposed to take place at noon, had been a shambles. As has happened far too often lately, the Day Militia Eigth digit had been placed on early duty and unceremoniously humped out the Gate to First Post. They should be getting there now, with plans to spend the night, having passed the digit they are meant to relieve, the Seventh, inbound for home. The nominally off duty Seventh has not made it back yet, but the delay in their return is not too unexpected, since they would have been up half the night. Past experience predicts that it might be another hour past the official sunset gate closure before they would straggle back through the posterns. The passing of the Night Milita baton had not happened either. There had been no captain for the Second to take it from Jos Ahbay for the Third, who is now standing off to the side of the Square, dismounted from a nearby borrowed horse, yawning and tossing the baton idly into the air while waiting. Waiting for whom is still not clear. Blennith shifts his weight nervously from foot to foot, standing at the spot where his leader should be. He knows rumors about this, too many rumors as no two tell the same story.
It’s not clear if the missing officer is officially late. Unusually for this time of year, the sky has been heavily overcast all day which makes it difficult to know exactly when to kick off the ceremonies, scheduled for sunset. The already subdued daylight is failing as a few drops of rain start to fall. Sharp ears hear hooves, one set distant and fast, another closer with a languid gate. And now…