V – UNEASY PEACE
Before heading back to Ken Muir, Beitris nic Tormod laid out several choker snares around the small cave that was the wolf’s lair. She laid one down at the mouth of the cave and four more in the woods around the place where she suspected the wolves might go. She planned to go back on the following day to check on them in case any had been tripped. Then William of Furness led the grogs back to the covenant grounds.
On the way back to the covenant, Éovan Auditore da Firenze fell back behind the others and climbed a tree, obscuring himself in the branches above. He hoped to see if the rest of the party was being followed by the wolves, and so waited for quite some time to see if any wolf passed beneath. He did see one wolf come sniffing along. The wolf did not notice him for a few moments, but then it looked up and, seeing Éovan
watching, it fled quickly and cowardly into the woods. After the wolf was gone, Éovan jumped down from the tree and caught up to the others with haste. He informed William that he felt one of the wolves was following, or at least tracking, the group. William, in turn, found himself disturbed by their precociousness.
The rest of the party returned to the Ken Muir community by early afternoon. They were just in time to witness the visit by the villager Barra of Bogue, who confirmed the identity of his daughter Eileen (see the adventure saint lasar 2). William and Éovan sought what council they could with the more learned brethren of the covenant:
They bent the ear of Brother Erlend Svensson enough to describe the partially buried cross to him, but Erlend wasn’t familiar enough with the local church history to offer any insight.
They gave the rusty old sword to Medigas of Florence, who was wise in the ways of metal. The mage held the sword for a moment, eyes closed and concentrating, but then shook his head. “I can read nothing immediate from this implement,” he said, “but leave it with me and I will examine it more closely over the coming weeks between my other duties.” [GM NOTE: Medigas used his premonitions special talent on the sword and was successful in reading it, but detected no immediate threat from the ancient blade.]
Since the magi seemed preoccupied with other things at the moment, William decided to use what resources he had available to deliver the wolves a decisive blow himself. That night, he and Éovan and several of the grogs slept in the sheep’s grange so as to mask their scents. Then they gathered up a fleece carpet from one of the covenant chambers, which would act as a visual disguise, and in the morning the wolf posse set out once more to try to lure and trap the wolf pack. They brought three of their oldest and most decrepit sheep with them to act as sacrificial lambs and to draw the wolves in.
When they arrived at the field on the Rig of Drumbuie William looked up smugly at the head of the wolf that he had placed on the pole the day before. “We’ll let the sheep graze here, again, only this time…” he fluttered the fleece he was carrying in the air before him, “…I’ll be hiding amongst them, and if a wolf should come by to try to snatch one of my woolly friends, it’ll be sorry it did. The rest of you hide about – make yourselves scarce, but keep an eye open. Éovan and Beitris, I suggest you two go and check on those snares you put out yesterday, just in case we got lucky.”
Beitris and Éovan went to the glen of the wolf cave and examined their snares. The four snares in the woods were found exactly as they had been left, but the snare by the entrance to the cave had been chewed through, and the noose portion was missing. It seemed likely, judging by the tracks, that a wolf had caught itself in the snare and had either chewed itself free or been chewed free by others. The fresh wolf tracks then led into the woods in a confusing variety of directions and neither Éovan nor Beitris was able to follow them effectively. They went back and reported to William.
William, meanwhile, had spent the better part of the morning in the field to no avail. It had been a good opportunity to clear his mind of the daily nuisances of the covenant, but at 35 years of age he was starting to feel that maybe he was getting to old for this. Still, his father had always said that a good leader always leads by example and those were words William lived by. Eventually, he stood up, scratched his damp and itchy rear end, and said, ‘well, this has been fruitless. Let us at least go and collect that old cross. There are enough of us to carry it. We’ll take it back to the covenant and see if any of the magi have anything to say about it.’
By the time they got back the entire covenant was a-buzz with the news of the vill of Bogue and the demonic revenant that had appeared the night before to terrorize the church. This news was the talk of the covenant for days, and in all the excitement of this the issue of the wolves was largely ignored by most covenfolk. The large and heavy cross was hard to ignore, though. Medigas took one look at it and declared it ‘dead stone’. After that he cared little. Raderic mac Gillolaine also looked at it and asked where it came from.
Now, Raderic had grown up in the Glen Ken and spent many a day wandering its woods, listening to the local stories, and studying its geography, so when he was told where exactly the cross had been found, he nodded his head and said sagely:
RADERIC: ‘It sounds like you were up in the Altibeastie Glen, the glen of the old beast. It’s an old Northumbrian name, for this land was once ruled and settled by the Angles of that country. There are stories of there having been several battles between the Northumbrians and either the Cruithne folk or the Picts in these hills. One such battle, I know, happened on one of the holms by the river just north of here. It’s possible there was another such battle further west in the Altibeastie glen. Certainly, this cross is of Northumbrian design, and the sword appears to be one of theirs as well. Why the cross would have been buried upside down I cannot say, but it doesn’t bode well. An upside down cross is one of the signs of deviltry.’
After it was checked to be sure there was no lingering infernal aura on the cross it was was erected upright outside Erlend’s small chapel. The bones from the cave were then buried near that cross beside the remains of the young girl from Bogue.
VI – WOLVES 3: COVENANT 1
The following morning William was away on covenant business delivering a letter for Thomas Magus to his uncle Hugh, so Éovan performed the morning rounds in his place. The first thing he noticed on his walk out to the sheep grange was that the gate was open and the sheep were all over the place! He raised the alarm and roused the covenant quickly, getting all hands out to round up the sheep. There was no explanation for why the gate was open, but most eyes were cast accusingly at poor Peadar, for he had a reputation as a day-dreamer, it was generally thought that he had forgotten to close the gate.
There was also much grumbling amongst the covenant staff, for it was Easter Sunday and a holiday. People were supposed to be resting and rolling eggs down hills, not chasing stray sheep.
Matters were only made worse for Peadar when the fresh carcass of a plump young sheep was found in the woods nearby. This discovery prompted a more thorough search of the area and the tracks of several wolves were found in the area, both outside and inside the pen.
ÉOVAN: ‘Hmm. The score is now two for the wolves and only one for us. We must track these beasts to their den and deal with them once and for all.’
A (grumbing) posse was organized and sent out into the woods to try to discover where the wolves had gone. Unfortunately, the wolves apparently split up and went in many directions, and their tracks were lost. Worrying now that such clever wolves might be werewolves, Raderic mac Gillolaine offered to cast a spell on the eyes of the wolf they had killed to try to detect it’s true form. He cast Sight of the True Form on the wolf eyes and discovered that, in fact, the wolf had always been just that – a wolf. Lycanthrope was ruled out as a threat for the time being.
Éovan then dismissed the covenfolk to their holiday – all except for Beitris. The two of them followed one set of wolf tracks as far as they could, then climbed a tree and waited to see if any wolf should pass. After several hours, none did. Next, they returned to the Altibeastie glen to see if the wolves had returned to their lair, but there were no fresh wolf tracks to be seen at all. It seemed that the lair had been abandoned. They then followed the Altibeastie burn northward until it joined the Polharrow burn, and then followed this back down toward the water of Ken and eventually returned home again. This circuit revealed no new wolf tracks.
They returned to Ken Muir to find that William had returned from his errand. Éovan filled him in on what had happened in his absence. William was at first quite angry that someone had left the gate open. He was also angry that the wolves had followed them back to take a sheep from under their very noses! He inspected the gate and insisted that it be double checked each night to make sure it was closed, then ordered that a bell be placed on it so that it would sound in the night should it be opened again.
The next day Éovan went hunting again with Beitris. They returned to the De’il’s Dyke and followed that southward this time to the river Dee. Here they found a few odd tracks, but nothing significant. Éovan knew that wolves hunted over huge areas and so surmised that these tracks belonged to one of the wolves of the pack they were looking for, but felt that this information helped little.
Over the next few days, it was decided that protection was the best defence. William decreed first that there would be a change of the pasture that the sheep spent their days in. The new pasture was to be located further south, close to the Dee. An armed escort of grogs was also sent with the sheep each day to ensure their safety. William then oversaw the improvement in the defence of their sheep paddocks. He had a new clasp made and had the carpenter erect a small tower with a platform near the paddocks so that a night watchman could watch over them discretely. He even took some of the first night watches over the sheep himself. A good leader always lead from the front.
Their plan seemed to be working – there were no signs of wolves for several nights. However, on the third night, when Beitris and Éovan were keeping watch from the platform, a wolf was seen. It happened while Beitris was off using a nearby bush to relive herself. Éovan, looking over the side of the high hide they had erected, was surprised to see the flock of sheep suddenly scurrying to one side of the paddock in a panic. On the other side of the paddock a large wolf had appeared inside the enclosure, as if from nowhere! It was standing stock still and looking at the sheep. It did not seem to have noticed Éovan. Surprised, Éovan glanced over at the gate to see if it was open, but it wasn’t. The gate was still closed!
Beitris scurried back from the bushes at the edge of the woods at the sound of the sheep’s alarmed bleating. She approached the wattle fence of the enclosure carefully and peered over. The wolf sensed her and turned it’s lamp-like eyes in her direction to stare balefully at her. She tried to cry out to Éovan but found that she couldn’t! She had been struck dumb by the sight of the wolf!
Éovan was watching from above. He had an arrow knocked in his bow, but was hesitant to shoot. He wanted to study the wolf for as long as he could to understand it’s tactics and abilities. He watched as Beitris approached the enclosure and the wolf turned to look at her. Then he observed as she turned and began to walk slowly around the enclosure toward the gate. Still Éovan held his shot. When she reached it, she put one hand on the bell, silencing it by preventing the clapper from ringing. With the other she reached out to open the latch of the gate.
‘Beitris!!’ Éovan yelled in surprise. He finally loosed his arrow at the wolf, but it missed! The arrow hissed into the ground next to it! Startled, the wolf glanced up at Éovan for a split second, then turned to run. It ran away from Éovan and toward the far side of the enclosure, then, with a great leap, it jumped over the wattle fence and off into the night. Éovan had just enough time to launch a second arrow as it fled, but he didn’t think he hit it.
Beitris now found herself standing by the gate with one hand on the bell. She didn’t remember walking over to the gate and was momentarily confused.
BEITRIS: ‘Hunh? What foul magic brings me here?’
ÉOVAN: (shouting down to her) ‘You were about to open the gate!’
BEITRIS: ‘Not me!’
ÉOVAN: ‘Yes! And you dropped your axe over there by the fence. Go and pick it up, lest there be more wolves.’
The rest of the night was without event, and in the morning Éovan made his report to William.
WILLIAM: ‘Well, that’s bizarre. I’ve not heard of such a wolf as can direct the minds of others. Clearly this was the lead wolf, and presumably it controls the other wolves, as well. I’ve often suspected, these past few days, that there was something more than an animal intelligence at work here. My fears are now confirmed!
ÉOVAN: ‘We must obviously increase the defensibility of our grange. I propose we build two more watch towers so that the wolves will not know which one to look for. We should also extend the height of paddock fence so the the alpha wolf cannot jump over. Perhaps we can make and install netting between tall posts.’
WILLIAM: ‘That sounds logical. What about the gate? How can we stop the wolf from mesmerizing one of the servants in the future and having them open the gate?’
ÉOVAN: ‘Perhaps we can place a large stone in front of it – large enough so that it can only be moved with the help of two people. That would surely do the trick.’
WILLIAM: ‘Alright, agreed. See to it.’
Peadar then approached. He had been inspecting the sheep to make sure all was well with them.
PEADAR: ‘It seems that one is missing, sarjeant, though I could find no carcass nor any tracks outside the pen.’
ÉOVAN: ’Then the score is now three for the wolves and still only one for us. At least we can now ensure that we do not fall any further behind by increasing our defences and keeping up the daytime escorts. Perhaps if we frustrate them enough, the wolves will leave to find easier pickings.
VII – THE HEDGE WIZARD
A week later it seemed as though William’s plan to thwart the wolves through increasing the protections on the sheep seemed to be working. There had been no sign of wolves in any location, and as each day passed there was less grumbling about the increased watch routines. By the time a week had gone by, the tense, seige-like, atmosphere of the Easter holiday had more or less gone. The mood at Ken Muir was returning to normal.
It was then that the stranger arrived. He strode confidently from the woods and approached the covenant with purpose. He was tall for an old man, and had a silvery beard that looked rather awkwardly interrupted, as if it had accidentally gotten caught in the equipment during sheep shearing season. He wore a rather shapeless black hat which drooped down over one shoulder like a sack. On the other shoulder was perched a small black thrush. Its shiny black eyes darted about in curiosity as it took in its new surroundings. The man had a long, hooked, staff which he used as a walking stick, and as he approached the gate he hooked it under a whin (gorse bush) and bent down to peer underneath.
Corwynn mac Murchan was on watch at the gate of the motte when the man appeared and watched the man approach with interest. Ken Muir did not often get strangers, and when they did they so often seemed relieved to have stumbled out of the magical wood and into civilization that they could barely contain their good humour. This man, however, looked quite serious, and, furthermore, was unperturbed by his sojourn in the Ken Muir forest. What’s more, he had a magical look about him, and so must surely be here on important mage’s business. And so Corwynn ran down to meet the man on the lawn of the bailey, as was his duty.
CORWYNN: (running up) ‘Can I help you… um… magister?’
OLD MAN: (clearing his throat with a cough) ‘Maybe. Do you have a fellow named Raderic here? I’m here to see him.’
CORWYNN: ‘Why, yes, of course, Magister.’ He gestured to the wooden tower on the motte. ‘I believe he is within. Why don’t I show you to a seat while I go and tell him that he has a visitor?’
OLD MAN: ‘Yes, good. You have a motte, I see. It looks new.’
CORWYNN: ‘Well, it’s built on an older structure, but the buildings are new, yes.’
OLD MAN: ’That’s a formula for disaster if I’ve ever heard of one. Mark my words! The old and the new do not mix. Anyway, lead on.’
Corwynn ran to the tower and rang the mage’s bell twice to attract Raderic’s attention. The mage appeared in the window swathed in blankets. Raderic, though not old, was decrepit thanks to a magical mishap, and he appeared frail. He leaned wearily out the window and waved the grog up. They met in the mage’s common room and Corwynn described the old man. Raderic looked perplexed, for he could not fathom why this person might be looking for him. He went to the window and looked outside at the man but did not recognize him. He had no idea who it was who might be looking for him. He decided to go down with Corwynn, then, to question the man for himself. Raderic took hold of Corwynn’s arm and the two descended slowly together.
In time the mage and the grog emerged from the Motte. Corwynn led Raderic across the grounds of the bailey and between the buildings. The sounds of hammering came from their right. Joseph the carpenter was building a scaffold, helped by some of the grogs. When they reached the place where the old man had been waiting, he was nowhere to be seen.
CORWYNN: ’He’s gone.’
RADERIC: (somewhat gruffly) ‘I walked all the way down those stairs for nothing, and now I have to walk all the way back up. I in no shape for this kind of tomfoolery, Corwynn.
CORWYNN: ’I’m very sorry, magister, but I left him right here!
RADERIC: (sighing) ‘No, it’s my fault, lad. Maybe I was too slow and he grew impatient.’
CORWYNN: ’I’m sorry, magister. Should I bring him up if he reappears?’
RADERIC: ‘Oh, I don’t know. I’m down now and a walk will do me good, I suppose. Let us survey the grounds together. (cough-cough) He is surely here somewhere.
CORWYNN: ‘Take my arm, magister.’
RADERIC: ‘No, I’ll use my staff, thank you.
They walked slowly together around to the west side of the bailey mound until they were in the shadow of the tower. In the distance to the south they could see the newly constructed defences and towers of the grange rising above the huts of the covenfolk. Off to the right was the old stranger. He stared at the ground as he plodded slowly along the edge of the woods. Every so often he paused and thrust his staff into a bush, or batted some branches aside as if he was looking for something. Raderic turned to Corwynn and nodded an instruction to hang back while he approached the stranger.
RADERIC: (clearing his throat loudly) ‘Ahem! Excuse me.’
OLD MAN: (turning to Raderic) ‘Ah! Who in hell are you?’
RADERIC: ’I’m Raderic mac Gillolaine and I hear you might be looking for me.’
OLD MAN: ’You’re Raderic?! You look old!’
RADERIC: ‘Why, I’ve only seen 29 winters, though I admit that some days I feel like I’ve seen many more.’
OLD MAN: ‘Are you ill?’
RADERIC: ‘Yes, something in the water perhaps, or something I ate.’
OLD MAN: ‘Well, you should be more careful. Stay away from the towns and burghs! Unhealthy places, and bad for the soul’
The old man then crossed his arms and cocked his head. He looked at Raderic expectantly, but Raderic didn’t know what to say.
OLD MAN: ‘You don’t remember me, do you?’
RADERIC: (thinking) ’I’ve seen many new faces these past years since we established Ken Muir, so you’ll forgive me if I’ve forgotten one…’
OLD MAN: ‘I knew your master – does that jog your memory?’
RADERINC: (quizzically) ‘Were you a member of his covenant?’
OLD MAN: (scoffingly) ‘Great heavens, no! I won’t soil myself with covenants if I don’t have to. I heard that he died at the hands of one. What exactly happened to him in the end I never heard.’
RADERIC: ‘He saw the stake, unfortunately, and I would have, too, were it not for the help of some kind local souls.’
OLD MAN: ‘I see. I warned him he was getting into bed with the wrong people. What is this place you’ve got here, anyway?’
RADERIC: ’It’s called Ken Muir, and it is our community.’
OLD MAN: ‘I know the name. It’s an old one! I used to come walking here before you built this mess!’
RADERIC: ‘Have you? I’m surprised I’ve never seen you before. I spent many years walking these parts before establishing our community here, you know.’
OLD MAN: ‘Eh, I keep to myself mostly. Most probably think I’m dead, if they ever knew I existed to begin with.’
RADERIC: ‘I see. I’m sorry, but I missed your name…’
OLD MAN: ‘You didn’t miss it. I didn’t tell it to you. But they call me Bodach mac Beitha. Your master and I, we used to dabble. But he chose to go one way and I went the other. He aligned himself with this ‘Order’ of yours – Disorder I would call it – and he paid the price for it, didn’t he.
RADERIC: ‘Well, his mistake was that he wanted play politics and also be a wizard. Gille Brigte mac Fergusa was the man behind his downfall.
BODACH: ’Aya, Gille Brigte is a slippery figure, and no mistake. But a loyal one – loyal to his roots, anyway, which is more than I can say for Uchtred. That lad has fallen far from the tree, laying in bed with these Normans and that king who calls himself a Scot. Why anyone would want to engage with those people is beyond me.
RADERIC: ’Uchtred has been very generous to us. This is his land!’
BODACH: (sputtering) ‘What!? You’re here by his grace?!’
RADERIC: (laughing) yes, this is his land. I’m not sure he’s ever set foot on it mind you…’
BODACH: ‘Have you allied yourself with him, then?!’
RADERIC: ‘I wouldn’t go that far…’
BODACH: ‘Well, watch where you step! And what about this Order of Roman meddlers? Are you in with them, too?’
RADERIC: ‘Order of Hermes? (cough) Well, I suppose I am. Let’s just say that I’m here to see that they don’t make the same mistake twice. That is why I joined the house of Jerbiton.’
BODACH: ‘They will make the same mistake a hundred times over! You watch where you step. Mark my words, you cannot have one foot in the old world and another in the new world! You must decide which of the two worlds you want to be a part of. And if it’s the new world that you want to be a part of, don’t be surprised if in the end the world doesn’t really look like what you expected!’
RADERIC: ‘You may be right. At least we are well positioned here such that, if the necessity arises, we can withdraw from the broader world and live as hermits.’
BODACH: ‘Do not be so sure. A young man who carries only his clothes on his back is free to travel where he will, but a young man who has built a house, sown a field, married a wife and borne a child will find himself tied to his efforts. And a man that has sold his soul to the devil is bound even beyond the grave. Do you think this ’Order’ will let you retreat?’
RADERIC: ‘Do they have a say in the matter? They can’t for us to stay… can they?’
BODACH: ‘They can and will hunt for those who do not see eye to eye with their ways. That is why your master joined to begin with, to avoid being persecuted. It is why I choose to hide my activities.’
RADERIC: ‘You speak sense. I will heed my step as far as they are concerned. So far, though, I’m under the impression they’ve forgotten all about us. We haven’t seen a single redcap..er, messenger… yet. My master did mention that he was betrayed by another covenant. Would you happen to know who what was?’
BODACH: ‘I washed my hands of those people. Stay true to your roots – good Gaelic roots – and you’ll live longer and happier.’
RADERIC: ‘You make it sound like my choices are to either adopt the ways of the Order, or live in a cave in the woods!’
BODACH: ’What’s wrong with a cave?’
RADERIC: (sighing) ‘I just don’t have the stamina for that any more. My health is not what it was when I was younger. I once lived in a cave, but could not do it another year. That’s why we set this place up to begin with.’
BODACH: (starting to walk) ‘I see your point. Well, since it’s here and I’m here you might as well show me around.’
RADERIC: ‘Yes, of course. Up there, as you can see, is the tower in which we magi live. Over there is the root cellar, and here is the future site of our blacksmith.’
BODACH: (shaking his staff at the fortified sheep grange) ‘And what in hell is that?’
RADERIC: (mumbling) ‘Oh, that it our sheep grange. It looks so substantial because we have recently had a wolf problem, but our, er, factor has taken car of it.’
BODACH : (snorting) ‘Wolves?’
RADERIC: ‘Aye, and strange ones. They seem to have telepathic abilities.’
BODACH: (snorting again) ‘Well, of course they do – they’re pack animals!’
RADERIC: ‘No, I mean they can communicate telepathically with humans!’
BODACH: ‘Oh come now. It’s well known that they can strike you dumb if they see you first, but still. Why didn’t you just track them down and kill them?’
RADERIC: ‘We tried. Too crafty.’
BODACH: (spitting) ‘Phhht! Too crafty? What are they teaching you in this Order of yours, anyway?’
RADERIC: (making excuses) ‘Well, not to be killers at least. We’re men of peace and learning here, not killers!’
BODACH: ’You’re like those monks.’
RADERIC: (smiling proudly) ‘Why yes, we are rather like monks!’
BODACH: ’You’re mice, living in holes in the walls and only venturing forth when its safe to steal a few grains. A real wizard should grab life by the balls!’
RADERIC: (mumbling something about vulgarity) ‘I say…’
BODACH: ‘What about Wolf’s Bane? Did you try that?’
RADERIC: (thinking) ‘Er, no, though I have heard that it’s an effective antidote to werewolves. I hadn’t hear that it works on normal wolves as well…’
BODACH: ‘Of course it does!’
RADERIC: ‘Ep. Ok. Well…I shall have to seek some out, I guess. In fact, I would have done so before if I hadn’t been so busy and then become ill…’
BODACH: ‘Bah! I can give you some. Which brings me to the reason I’m here. I’m looking for a particular herb which used to grow around here. I used to know the exact spot, but now you’ve chopped down part of the damned forest and uprooted the earth to build this mess of a castle. I need the herb, but now I can’t find it anymore!’
RADERIC: ‘Herbs? Why the only herbs of note that we’ve found around here are the mandrake roots…’
BODACH: ‘Yes, those are the ones! If you would direct me to some, I would pick them. In exchange, I will give you some of that wolf’s bane. How does that sound?’ The bird on his shoulder squawked.
By now they had rounded the southern end of the motte and were walking back up the east side.
BODACH: ’What’s that over there?’
RADERIC: ‘It is our small chapel. Good Brother Erlend maintains it for the covenfolk.’
BODACH: ‘That cross… is that an old Northumbrian cross? I don’t remember seeing that here before.’
RADERIC: ‘Yes, it is Northumbrian. We’re rather traditional here.’
BODACH: ‘Son, you don’t know the first thing about tradition.’
Raderic offered to lead the old hedge wizard into the wood to the place where the mage, Thomas fitz Roy, collected his mandrake roots. He cautioned the old man not to take them all but to leave some for Thomas. Bodach seemed reluctant, but agreed to leave some. Raderic, however, received an earful of warning about the hazards of consorting with Normans such as this ‘Thomas’ and in particular about adopting the Norman method of settling the land.
BODACH: ‘These hills are full of people enough already! Why is Uchtred giving the land away to foreigners? He’s a traitor to his own people! You’re a good Galloway lad – can’t you see it?!’
RADERIC: (stumbling over his words) ‘I…I…don’t pay much attention to politics east of here, I’m afraid…I’m more concerned with the village where my family lives in the west.’
BODACH: ’You’re village will be next! Remember what I said – if you lie with the devil don’t be surprised if you wake up in hell!’
In order to find the mandrake, Raderic paused to cast the formulaic spell Intuition of the Forest. Bodach watched with a frown, shaking his head and muttering under his breath.
BODACH: (muttering) ‘Unbelievable…’ (then out loud) ‘Son, magic is something that comes from the heart! It’s not something you learn from a book and memorize with gestures!’
RADERIC: ‘Really? This is how I was taught. It has more than kept me alive a few times…’
BODACH: ‘It should more than keep you alive! It should be your very life itself! Your blood should flow with the essence!’
RADERIC: (flustered) ‘Yes, but…my blood does…I mean…otherwise I would have been a wheelwright like my father!’
BODACH: ‘The ’Order’ or a wheelwright? Do you think those were your only choices? Nonsense! There’s a third choice – to become a true mage, one who performs magic from the inside – real magic! Not this mummery from a book!’
RADERIC: ‘How is one supposed to learn magic without books?! Spontaneous magic takes such a toll, and my lungs are not what they used to be. Besides, I find it just as efficacious to cast from the book! I have colleagues who cast from the heart and frankly, I haven’t seen any advantage.’
BODACH: (sighing) ‘Well, never mind, it’s probably too late now, anyway. I fear you’ve already been ruined for that kind of learning and in your state of health you may not survive the schooling, anyway.
RADERIC: ‘I will think on your words, but let us first go to the mandrake. Only remember to leave most for Thomas.’
BODACH: ‘Very well.’
Raderic led Bodach to the mandrake patch. The old man seemed most excited. He jammed the tip of his staff into the ground and used it to pry up the roots, while Raderic hovered about nervously. The roots did not come up easily, so there was much grunting on the part of the old hedge wizard.
BODACH: (between grunts) ‘Kind of small…my fault, I suppose, given the time of year.’
RADERIC: ‘Not too many, now. These are really Thomas’ roots and I did not yet ask his permission.’
BODACH: ‘Nonsense, they’ll re-sprout from any old bit of root that breaks off.’
RADERIC: ‘Still, I think that’s enough now, don’t you think?’
BODACH: (bending down to harvest another) ‘Bah, the woods will be full of them before you know it.’
RADERIC: ‘Ah, if you say so. But, oh, you seem to have taken all of them!’
BODACH: ‘You know, once upon a time it was possible for an old man to wander through these woods at will collecting whatever herbs he chose. Now you’ve got this mess of a place, uprooted the ground for your castle, your soldiers and pigs are tromping all over the place eating and shitting in the woods. This could be the last time I collect mandrake roots for a very long time, and you want to deprive an old son of the land what has always been his to collect?! I’ve been using mandrake since before you were born…’
RADERIC: ‘I see what you are saying. Anyway, as I said, we should leave some for Thomas. Let me have at least two of those that you picked for him.
BODACH: ’Oh, very well. You are obviously a most nervous and insistent young man.’
Having finished picking the mandrake, Raderic led Bodach back to the bailey of the covenant. He was still adamant about introducing the old hedge wizard to his two sodali. Raderic led the old man across the bailey and to the foot of the motte, where he called out to his fellow magi, augmenting his voice magically.
RADERIC: (shouting) ‘Thomas! Oh Thomas! Look, I have brought you some mandrake that we found in the woods!’
THOMAS: (emerging from the tower, confused by the summoning) ‘Oh! That…uh… is kind, I suppose, though it is rather early for the harvesting of mandrake, I must say.’
RADERIC: ‘Oh, ah, is it? I’m afraid I’m no expert in such matters, but there you have it. Here, I have two roots for you. And let me introduce you to my new friend, Bodach mac Beitha.’
THOMAS: (speaking in atrocious Gaelic) ‘Greeting, Bodach. Thomas am I.’
BODACH: (nodding curtly) ‘Norman.’
THOMAS: ‘I am only half Norman, and half Northumbrian. I have a foot in both worlds, so to speak.’
BODACH: (muttering sarcastically) ‘Oh, perfect…’ (then out loud) Are you a gossock or a fingaul?’
THOMAS: ‘Gossock. Tell me, Bodach, where do you hail from?’
BODACH: ‘From right here.’
THOMAS: ‘Yes…I meant, which part of here?’
BODACH: ‘I live in the hills to the west.’
RADERIC: ‘He knew my master!’
THOMAS: ‘Oh yes? So which part of the hills, exactly….?
MEDIGAS: (intruding on the scene with an armful of glassware) ’If I’ve told you two once I’ve said it a thousand times: this is no way to clean an alembic! Who is responsible for this?’ (then, seeing Bodach) ‘Er, who is this?’
RADERIC: ‘Bodach, this is my other fellow mage, Medigas of Florence. Medigas, this is Bodach.’
BODACH: ‘Florence? Where is that?’
RADERIC: ‘Uh, Rome.’
BODACH: (spitting) ‘A Roman now? This place is really going to the dogs.’
RADERIC: (interrupting) ‘He doesn’t like Romans.’
MEDIGAS: (smiling) ‘Neither do I, the interfering busybodies!’
BODACH: ‘Well, you at least have a good beard.’
RADERIC: ‘Bodach here thinks we have made a grave mistake aligning ourselves with the Order and with Uchtred. He feels we would have been better off living closer to nature and ancestors of Galloway, as he does.’
BODACH: ‘Yes, mark my words – the old world will return one day to take its revenge on all of us.’
THOMAS: ‘I feel that that is pessimistic and outmoded thinking. We’re into a new age with much hope and promise! Both the Order of Hermes and Uchtred represent the relentless march of civilization. And we, a quiet and gentle community of scholars with the blessing of both Uchtred and The Order, are in the vanguard!’
RADERIC: ‘Why yes, we have already exposed a devilish sorcery not far from here, in the village of Bogue. Why, Thomas himself went up there and exercised the place.’
BODACH: ‘Oh yes?’
RADERIC: ‘Yes. The churchyard has been de-sanctified, though Uchtred is right now in the process of having that taken care of.’
BODACH: ‘Interesting! Hard to believe. Bogue, you say, eh? Well, it is getting late and I’m afraid I’m not used to chit-chat. I must be off.’
RADERIC: ‘And the wolf’s bane?’
BODACH: ‘Yes, worry not. I’ll have someone bring it to you within a few days. But now I must go.’
THOMAS: ‘Please know that, although we may have some differences in opinion, we wish you well and would like to foster an attitude of neighbourliness. Please feel free to come by again if you should need anything.
BODACH: (nodding) ’Thank you. Raderic, despite my misgivings about your short-sightedness, I find I still like you. Take care.’
They watched in silence as Bodach as he walked across the open bailey and into the woods to the west. Only pounding of the hammer on the new bailey palisade works could be heard. The three mages glanced at each other and then each turned to return to their duties.
A few days later a short man with dark hair arrived with a sack of dried wolf’s bane. He neither lingered nor spoke, but the grog who accepted the delivery thought that he looked like a pict. Soon every spare hand was turned toward making small pouches of wolf’s bane to hang around the necks of the sheep.
And life returned to normal at Ken Muir once again.