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The Paladin’s Secret - A Play By Forum game of The Burning Wheel


None of your fellow travellers particularly stand out when it comes to associating them with the cube, but you do figure out that the wagon belongs to Diana.


The next morning then, the weather is cool and the clouds are low but not too heavy. The breeze is light and the leaves from the silent forest are barely rustling.

An elf, wearing very well made, but rustic clothing emerges along the path. She is incredibly old, and carries a long hiking stick, wrapped in leather and decorated with red cloth. He backpack is small and virtually empty, and she has a bow tied to her back, the strings in a small pouch by her side.

She makes a beeline for the caravan leader - a nominal position as there are no reports of bandits or highwaymen, and no real decisions to make, but a position given nonetheless. Most of the caravanners start to ready their wagons, Diana you may notice has a driver to do it for her, but she does not shy from work, finding any travellers without a wagon and placing their bags in hers to ease their walk. She avoids your group entirely.

Exile Guide


(How are we arranging ourselves then, fellow Paladin’s folk? Are we going on foot, looking for space on a wagon, keeping together or splitting up a little?)


Simon has probably got his own seat.


(From what you’ve written, I’m assuming that there are other people on foot, so the caravan will be moving at a manageable pace to walk along with?)


Absolutely, yes - lets put some numbers to this, say 10 wagons and 50 people total, so at a minimum, 30 people on foot. The wagons are likely to be the slowest moving part, they are tooled to be manageable for a small horse or ideally a pony to keep it moving over rough ground, they incorporate toothed cams to stop the wheels slipping backwards and other dwarven innovations - but as clever as these mechanics are, they come at the cost of speed. Furthermore, the colony is only a few years old, horses are rare and expensive, so many are led by only a single pony, where two would be preferable.

The colony of course would be far better off trading by sea, but without any trading vessels, for now until the first ships can be built, caravans are their lifeline.


(I am assuming Archibald has moved on to his party, or is he hanging with us?)

Warran wakes up in the morning, re-reads the last page he was on, closes the book and packs it away. He stretches, gathers his belongings, and finds the others.

After noticing Diana’s cold shoulder to their group at large, Warran says to the others of the Paladin’s household, “For some reason, my presence is causing us to be excluded by some of those in the caravan. Perhaps, I should distance myself from the rest of you for a while in the hopes of smoothing over whatever unknown slight I may have caused…”


There seems to be two distinct groups - the merchants and the traders. Loosely, the merchants dress in fine clothing, have servants to help them and for the most part stick together. They cluster around Diana keenly, and it is from this group that you continue to receive the cold shoulder, though you are not unique in this respect.

The Traders however group together and you find yourself very much included in this group. They only run two of the ten wagons, the most plain two without any of the aforementioned dwarven mechanisms, and many of them have great backpacks which they intend to carry their wares back with them, though most of those are stowed on Diana’s wagon. They are obviously in a different social class, and Archibald is very much of this group.


Aulexis is extremely bored by the slow pace of the animals. She gives them dirty looks when she thinks no-one is watching, and curses them with violent internal oaths if something makes them stumble. She sticks to the others (who are probably walking beside Simon’s ride?) in hopes of stimulating conversation.

Aulexis looks appraisingly at Warran. Secret enemies are for dukes and sea captains, not for bookish metalworkers. He must know the reason for her animosity, but he’s probably too embarrassed or afraid to reveal it. This ‘waiting for people to tell me things on their own time’ is agonizing. How do I bleed it out of him, linguistically, yet appear of pure intent?

“You didn’t get anything out of Archibald, then?” Aulexis puts on her best ‘better luck next time’ face. “Too bad. Hopefully she doesn’t cause us any trouble down the road.” She smiles, apparently full of faith that everything will be fine.


Kaelin will quietly appraise the various travellers, making guesses at the trades they practice. The merchants are of less concern; buying and selling may bring position and wealth, but to grow a colony, those with hands-on skills are likely to be more important.

As Aulexis’ impatience at the pace beings to bubble away, Kaelin will slowly move up the line of the caravans to have a closer look at the guide.


It’s not long after you enter the forest that you get to meet the guide. She doesn’t introduce herself, she remains at the front and bats off any attempt at conversation that the merchants subject her too in favour of sniffing the air or tasting the soil as she guides you through the unmanaged forest.

The forest is, as it’s name suggests, a quiet place, but certainly not silent. Birds do chatter, though no the sweet sound of songbirds, but that of crows and wood-pigeons and larger birds of prey seem to do well here. The floor of the forest seems lifeless and sterile, at least of animal life, plants of all shapes and sizes proliferate here with abundance, flowers of vivid and perhaps unfamiliar colours, shapes and sizes even though no insects are here to help pollinate them. Perhaps Kaelin notes that despite the huge variation of plantlife, they all fall under the category of plants that can reproduce by spreading rhizomes under the soil and Simon may see that there are no young trees here, they are all old - but not ancient, and show signs of once being heavily coppiced and pollarded, however, whoever did this stopped long ago.

It is when you reach the first spring that the Exile guide makes her way back down the line, making sure to inform you all “Do not drink the water here, it is unsafe”. On meeting Kaelin, she gives him an unfamiliar bow, unmistakably elven but not of the marsh people, however Aulexis, who gets the same will know it is a formal but incredibly old fashioned greeting among elven corsairs.


Kaelin matches the greeting with a bow of the marshfolk reserved for respected elders and those of great talent.

"Would it be possible to speak to you of the surrounding land the next time the caravan stops? I would be keen to learn more about this forest and its dangers.”


She looks you up and down, appraising you before smiling “It would be my honour to share this with you, come walk with me, I shall show you, this is the better way to learn”


Kaelin nods his head as an apprentice would to acknowledge the wisdom of a master. He will fall in with the guide, listening attentively to anything she shares.

Learning from a teacher

While beginners luck is one way to learn a new skill, learning from a skilled individual is another way. In Burning Wheel, the ability of the teacher to teach and the ability of the student to learn are important.

In this instance for example, The Exile is very knowledgeable in Silent-Forest-Wise, but with a Will of only B2, not the greatest instructor. This manifests in The Exile taking 14 days to teach Kaelin enough for him to be able to take a test against the new skill.

The exact formula is (10 - Teachers Will) + (10 - Students Will) = Days before test.

After the required number of teaching days, Kaelin earns his test and could mark off one bit against the skill. However, in this instance, Kaelin doesn’t have the skill in question, so the test earns him a beginners luck test instead.

14 days for a beginners luck test when he could earn that by doing something silly in an instant by, say eating some fruit along the path to help him learn the dangers of the forest might not seem like a great deal, but, it of course avoids the consequences of a failure, and while I have been gentle with you with the consequences so far, as we get into the meat of the game, they will start to bite a little more :smiley:

It is also a very good way of beating the limits of your beginners luck tests of 1 per adventure. If you’ve made a beginners luck test already in a skill, you can’t take another in that skill, so getting training in it is a good way to speed up opening that skill.

Kaelin, unless told otherwise, I shall assume that you receive 4 days training in Silent-Forest Wise - assuming the journey goes to plan and only takes 2 day travelling in the Silent Forest there, and the 2 days when you return.


((If I follow then, Kaelin will be at 4/14 days of learning; once the learning is complete, he can roll a Beginner’s Luck test for Silent-Forest Wise. What happens if the teacher changes, say to one with a higher Will - does the amount of time already committed decrease, or the total amount of learning required change etc.?))


You won’t need to roll anything, it will be as if you have made a roll - behind the scenes there are compilations as to what type of roll the teacher has given you - Routine, Difficult or Challenging - in this instance it wouldn’t matter since they all would amount to the same thing - so she went for the easiest one, a routine test and I rolled against her instruction skill for her, which she has passed.

4/14 = 29% and we can reduce the number of days required by that amount :slight_smile:


“Nothing that could confirm or deny any possible suspicions I have… The only things I know for certain are: She is wealthy; is part of a tight personal collective with significant power and connections; obviously will hold something against a whole group with simple association with an individual; she is a patron to the theatre; and that I attended a school at the same time as her son…”

He looks off in the middle distance and speaks clearly referencing the last point, “If that causes us any aggravations… Well, then I have even less of an opinion of him than I did before…”


Aulexis returns the old corsair greeting. She wonders what kind of corsair the old elf was. Perhaps a captain like herself, long ago? How did she become one of the exiles on the other side of the Orcish wall?

Perhaps she will find out after she susses out this question with Warran. Aulexis wonders what human school is like, and what the big book reader could have done to another student. Out-read him? Maybe he was the school bully?

“So you do remember something, but it isn’t big enough in your eyes to create this reaction? Parents always add fuel to their children’s fires. If the son doesn’t like you, the mother hates your guts.”


Jarek flits around the merchants trying to get closer to Diana or her wagon as they are getting ready to set off. His way is clearly barred and his questions brushed off or ignored all together. When he finally realizes that his task is hopeless he returns to the group from the Paladin’s household. He falls in next to Aulexis and Warran. He had been nursing a half formed idea. Members of the Musicians’ Battalion could go anywhere and perform and gain the attention of people who would normally never talk to us. He fiddled with the ends of the straps to his pack as he muses. He is only half listening, but when Aulexis mentions parents and and grudges, he realizes that they are talking about Diana.

(Jarek had wandered off during the earlier conversation about Diana.)

All thoughts of music vanish from his mind.
Jarek blurts out, “How did you meet her son?”