Part one of Captain Smith’s adventures in Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword saw me learning the lay of the land. Specifically, a very small patch of land directly underneath my face after discovering the sodding Thresh of musketmen and being shot off my horse. Taken prisoner by the very bandits I sought to eliminate, the fate of Captain Smith is looking bleak…
Or is it?
Having bravely run away, I bravely conceal myself under a tree and take stock of my assets, my army, and the other logistical inventories that a good leader should examine on a regular basis. I come up with the following action points:
- My boots are missing. I have no shoes on. I should probably get some shoes.
- I have no soldiers.
- I still have a horse!
- I am poor.
I decide that this leadership thing is all in a man’s mind. Yes, I have no funds at present. Yes, the horse I’m riding sounds like it’s breathing through a straw. Yes, there’s a bullet lodged somewhere in my elbow. But so long as I know myself to be a leader of men, the men will follow. I’m going to ride back to that city, use the very last of my coin to buy some men, and also probably some boots, and I’m going to come back to Zamoshye the LAST TIME and pluck these bandits from the Earth like apples from a tree.
True to my word, I return several days later leading a force of “marksmen” who insist on all dressing in different colours, making them look a bit like an angry band. Myself and the disco marksmen are feeling confident as we ride out to face my old foe and COCK COCK NO NONONONO
AGAIN I am toppled from my horse by fucking Solid Snake over there with the arquebus. You know what? Horses are so last century. From now on I march into battle with my boys. Or perhaps behind them.
My “boys” end up coming through, dragging me from the fighting and fending off, if not defeating, the bandits. Two of our number are dead. That might not seem like much, but it means we can’t hope to come at these bandits again and finish them off.
For the umpteeth time I return to the nearby castle town with the intention of spending my money, but this time it won’t be on soldiers. No. I’m quite literally spent. I have enough for a jug of wine and that’s what I intend to buy.
But what’s this?! Fate! Fate intervenes once again!
Let’s do this. I take a deep breath. Also, I take a pull of wine. And then another. Awaiting the perfect moment, I finish the jug for good luck.
Bafflingly, the townsman overcomes my cat-like reflexes and immediately demands a duel outside the tavern. So be it! I was intending to take your money bloodlessly, good sir, or should I say shitty sir, but if it must come to this, if this is what it has come too, well, then that’s what we will do, you and I. You and me.
Now, I’m not saying this fight went badly. But I will say that when a furious, drunken Polish man with a sword like a cross between a machete and a banana comes running at you, in the black of night, after you’ve had a few drinks, it can be quite tricky to load and aim your firearm. That’s all I’m saying. In the end the man delivered a litany of cuts to my chest and left me for dead.
Every time I think I’ve reached rock bottom in this game, those rocks come bursting apart to reveal another level below them. Before I was just poor. Now I’m poor, hated and recovering from several horrific injuries, with two paltry, effeminate riflemen on my payroll who I can’t actually pay. Still, it can’t get any worse, right?
I find the mayor of this horrible city, the one I asked to lower Zamoshye’s taxes all those weeks or days or hours ago to see if he has any work for me. As it happens, he does. He wants somebody to take five hundred thaler – more money than I’ve seen in my life – to a bunch of bandits far to the North West, who are holding his daughter hostage. Clearly he hasn’t heard about my antics down the pub last night, and I intend to accept the work and flee before that happens. With the money delivered to the bandits, I’m to escort his daughter home. I have thirty days in which to complete the job, but by my estimation it shouldn’t take longer than a week.
And just like that, Captain Smith is back on his feet again!
This lasts for about three days.
Myself and my two marksmen are about a day’s hike from the bandits (who are located along the Swedish-ruled Northern coast) when I’m approached by a man (see above) who looks like he emerged from his haircut like a horrible plant from a huge seed. They are bandits. They want money.
In an agonising decision, I end up leaving one of my two disco marksmen behind as bait while myself and the other make good our escape. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep their hands off this ransom money.
“I’m sorry,” I would have told my soldier, if there had been time. “But since arriving in this land I’ve been shot, cut, turned away by my lessers, taken prisoner, had my boots stolen and shot again. All I have left is my honour. Do you understand that? So yes, I will abandon you to these ruffians. Because some things in life are more important than blood and friendship. Honour is that which we are gifted with that is closest to godliness, and I will not abandon it.”
So imagine how I felt when, not five hours march from the scene of this horrid decision, another group of ne’erdowells ride up with the intention of mugging me. Thirty of them, this time. Swedish deserters. Worse, abandoning my men to make good my escape isn’t an option. Of the five hundred thaler of ransom money in my pocket, the deserters ride away with three hundred of it, leaving me with no way to rescue that mayor’s daughter.
I feel like a mass-produced, boil-in-the-bag failure as myself and my sole remaining mercenary drift into the nearest Swedish town. It’s after my second jug of wine that I dimly realise that I still have two hundred thaler. More than enough to assemble another gang of mercenaries and continue playing at being a leader. Miserably, I hire the pikemen drinking in the corner and ask the mayor if he has any work.
He informs me that he could use a party of mercenaries to escort one of his caravans. I agree to the job, seeing as it sounds like something that even a worthless captain like me could manage.
As it happens, it really is. Over the next two weeks I escort several merchant caravans in succession, earning myself a tidy pile of thaler for each one. I’m still reeling from the fact that I’m earning money succesfully when the inevitable happens. Down South, in Crimean territory, I realise with mounting horror that the party of Tatar raiders at the very edge of my viewing distance are racing after the caravan. Between the caravan guards and my growing force, we have twenty five men, one of which is me, and I don’t count. And there are… thirty five Tatar raiders. Oh no. Oh, no. It was going so well for a minute there.
Oh, fuck it. Sometimes you’ve just got to dip your balls in the bathwater and see if it burns, as my grandmother used to say. At least I’m not riding a stupid bloody horse anymore, so I’m unlikely to get sniped. Give ‘em Hell, men.
I– are they? Oh no. The Tatar raiders are all on horseback. The seconds before the cavalry charge hits pass like fat grapes being crushed, one after another.
It ends up being an educational battle. To start with, I learn that not being on a horse leaves you open to being bounced around ceaselessly, as if the battlefield were some medieval mosh pit. But more importantly, I learn that Tatar raiders are shit, and lightly-armoured horsemen aren’t so good against pikemen or musketmen. As I’m being knocked back and forth, I’m dimly aware that Tatars are getting clotheslined off their horses constantly.
As the dust settles, I realise we’ve won an incredible victory! The final tally is thirty of their dead and six of ours, and only two of which were mine. The rest were caravan guards. Amazing. There’s even a robe on one of the corpses that offers significantly better stopping power than my original clothes.
Hmm. Less Jacob’s technicolour dream coat, more Jacob’s Ladder, but I’m not picky. Besides, look at me! I’ve gone native.
A week passes. After this caravan, I take on a similar mission delivering a herd of cattle. Work is work, eh? With the cows safe and sound in their new castle I find myself browsing my quest log and see that I’ve actually still just got time left to complete that hostage rescue mission. I’d completely forgotten about it! And here I am, fannying around with cows? What’s wrong with me? I long since recouped the 500 thaler that was originally stolen from me.
Racing north, I carefully lead my party away from any potential ambushes, all the way to the meeting point.
The deal is done, and the Mayor of somethinsomething’s daughter has joined my party.
I might just make it as a hero after all.