The Chronicle of Ken Muir

Autumn Council September 25 A.D. 1171
During which many unexpected visitors arrive

I – THE MATTER OF TANCREDUS

On the morning of September 25, Thomas fitz Roy stood before his fellow magi and took charge of their quarterly meeting.

THOMAS: ‘Fellow magi, I’m pressed for time this morning so I hope you will not take offence if I chair the meeting with an eye to getting it over with quickly.’
RADERIC AND MEDIGAS: (nods of general assent).
THOMAS: ‘Very good then. Now, first off, you’ll recall the troubled priest of the village of Bogue, Brother Tancredus, who has been living these past six months in our magical woodland?
RADERIC AND MEDIGAS: (more nods and an ‘aye’).
THOMAS: ‘Well, it seems we have perhaps neglected him a little too much, and what I have to relate is a somewhat disturbing. He sent me a note a few weeks and asked me to come and visit him, which I did. I’m afraid he has taken it upon himself to cut out his tongue so he can never speak evil again. He did this on his own and the result is a butchery, to say the least, but it has healed and he seems well enough, physically. I must admit it is impossible for me to judge his mental state, but his writing was lucid enough.’
RADERIC AND MEDIGAS: (vaguely disapproving sounding murmurs).
THOMAS: ‘It was not his tongue which caused him to write to me, however. It was a need for companionship. It seems he has grown tired of living in the woods by himself, never seeing another soul nor reading a book. He would like to be useful again, and to serve, as it were. He has asked if he might work in the scriptorium for us. We don’t have a scriptorium, of course, but nevertheless I’m sure we could make a room for him. It would help perhaps to free up some of our time, not to mention that of Brother Erlend Svensson as well, who is very valuable to us in other respects. I feel this would be both a benefit to him and a boon to the covenant as well. What say you both?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Ah… what are the whereabouts of Brother Tancredus’ tongue?’
THOMAS: (taken aback for a moment) ‘Ah, oh… I believe he burnt it. At least, he said he did. Dare I ask…?’
MEDIGAS: (ignoring the question) ‘Shame. Anyway, I for one, would welcome the scribal help. I have much copying to do and little time. I should like to get this copy of our medical text completed.’
RADERIC: ‘You mean the one that we promised to the tinker, Raibert Caird.’
THOMAS: ’That’s exactly what I had in mind. I shall send Brother Erlend out to fetch him and bring him home.’

II – SILKBEARD AND ST ODHRAN

MEDIGAS: ’That’s settled, then. Now, I would like to speak about the enchanted items I am making for the three of us. You will recall that I’m planning a trio of items which will help us to stay connected, though we be miles apart. I’ve made some progress on them, but need some harder material in addition to the base metals. I feel that a couple of gemstones of some kind would be ideal. They need to be small enough to be fit into Raderic’s earing, Thomas’s signet ring, and the rims of my lenses.
RADERIC: ‘Well, Medigas, if it is gems that you’re after I might have just the thing. The other night while Brother Erlend was in his cups in the grog hall to told the tale of an old Dublin Norse king who perished and was buried on our shores. If you’re not averse to a little tomb-robbing it seems likely that treasures might be found within his burial mound.
MEDIGAS: ‘Would it, perhaps, be possible to speak with the dead to gain permission? A norse king of Dublin might not rest easily on a foreign shore.’
RADERIC: The king’s name was Sygtryggr. Sygtryggr Silkeskeg. I believe he is the same as person as ‘Sitric Silkbeard’, a norseman of some legend who lived about a hundred years ago. Erlend heard the story from one of his old Ceili De brethren, a monk named Finglo Clayge from the Isle of Mann. Erlend’s tale went on for some time in a rambling way, about wars in Ireland and raids on Wales, and the deaths of most of Sygtryggr’s sons. The most interesting part was about the death of Sygtryggr, himself however. Old Finglo claimed to know the tale of the king’s last days spent in exile, which is not recorded in any book. He related the story of several glorious years of raids on the churches and monasteries of Galloway before finally falling at the hands of angry locals near Sunnoness in Farines. His burial mound is said to still be there, and probably contains his boat and personal treasures. Finglo and another novice, Brother Madoc, heard this from their old abbot, Oleif Tyrkyrrsson.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Yes, I think we should look into this. Is there anything preventing us from organizing an excursion this week?
RADERIC: ’Not per se, but I should tell you that we have all been invited to the village of Dalri to a festival on October 27th to celebrate the feast fay of St Odhran of Iona and to mark the opening of the new church there. This is the church that will replace the one at Bogue, which remains a tainted place after your adventures there, Thomas. (see st lasar 1).
MEDIGAS: ’Hmm. How many should attend this festival from Ken Muir, do you think?’
RADERIC: ‘It seems they are expecting a large delegation.
MEDIGAS: ’Would two thirds of our population be enough? We should leave enough people behind to protect Ken Muir. We must not appear to be reluctant to go – nor too eager.’
THOMAS: ‘That sounds fair. I agree that we have to attend.’
RADERIC: ‘I wonder what they’ll do with that old church at Bogue.’
MEDIGAS: ‘I have no idea, but perhaps it would be best to keep this from Brother Tancredus. There seems no need to test his mental stability at the moment. Perhaps Erlend could invite Tancredus up to the bailey only after the feast day of St. Odhran. It will give us time to rig up a scriptorium of sorts anyway.’
RADERIC: ‘And we’ll need to obtain some parchment, too.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Speaking of needs, I feel we need some more capable grogs. Those that we have are hearty in a pinch, but are either unreliable or slow thinkers. We need a few more that can function as solid errand people.’
THOMAS: I will speak to William of Furness about finding some more capable people. Shall we move on to the next item?’

IIIMONYGOF AND THE MACETHES

MEDIGAS: Very well. I have some news to share, too. I’ve been hearing vague rumours of disappearances in the Galloway Hills, and someone from Monygof even claimed to have been chased by tree roots, of all things – only escaping after crossing over a burn. This smacks of magic, for sure. You will recall that Monygof is also where Raibert Caird said that someone was looking for that book on alchemy.
RADERIC: ‘Tree roots? There were whispers at my old covenant of something like that – about a sinister servant constructed of branches and the roots of trees. Could it perhaps be the same? I had thought such a thing was little more than an apprentice’s rumour – often hinted at but never actually achieved. I understand that a modicum of mandrake might be required, along with a fresh corpse…’
THOMAS: ‘Mandrake!? Hey, wait a minute! Didn’t you give your former mentor some of my meagre supply?! The cheek of it! And Monygof is practically on our doorstep!’
RADERIC: ‘Who, Bodach mac Beitha? He would never do such a thing…’
MEDIGAS: ‘Mandrake can be used for many things. Let us not jump to conclusions.’
THOMAS: ’I’m not happy about this. People will be pointing fingers at us!’
RADERIC: ‘Perhaps you are right. I can only apologize for that, Thomas. It seems it was a hasty decision on my part to offer some of your mandrake to the old mage. It seemed at the time that it might be wise to buy his loyalty. Still, I would caution that we should speak to him again before accusing him.
MEDIGAS: ’Yes, there are likely more hedge wizards than just him in those hills – not to mention bandits, raiders, and whatever else.
THOMAS: Speaking of raiders, some of the grogs claim the MacEthes of Merton are planing a large cattle raid, likely against one of the large drives that comes down from the highlands to Appleby or Carlisle.
RADERIC: ’That would mean raiding into Strathnith or Annandale, then? Such a raid might raise tensions between the Scottish nobles and our Galloway lords!
THOMAS: ’My man William of Furness assures me that no MacEthe was ever smart enough to pull off such a raid, though. I’m sure it’s all just so much bafflegab amongst the grogs, but this is what occupies their puny minds. However, if we do hear more of raids, we might want to keep a closer eye on our sheep. The wolves were bad enough.’
MEDIGAS: ’I’ve heard that the MacEthes are bad apples. Should we not do something to prevent this raid?’
THOMAS: ’As I said, it is unlikely to come to fruition – though if we happen to come across some MacEthes with a herd of stolen cattle we should certainly confiscate it and teach them a lesson.

IV – THE ITALIAN

Just then there was a commotion on the stair leading up to the council chamber in the tower, followed by some shouting. Young Angus burst into the room, breathless, followed by an abashed Corwynn, who was supposed to be turning people away during the meeting.

CORWYNN: ‘My lords! I’m sorry but I didn’t mean to!’
Next a swarthy man wearing the deep red robes of a wizard strode into the chamber. He leaned on his staff and and peered through bushy black eyebrows at the three magi who sat in surprise at the table.

MAGE: (speaking in a dominant voice with an Italian accent) ‘Good morning, sodales of Ken Muir! My name is Albrechtus Luteus of house Flambeau. I’m sorry for not sending word ahead, but it seems your country is under-served by redcaps and I have spent the last several hours lost in your woods.’
MEDIGAS: (trying not to seem surprised) ‘From whence do you hail, sodale?’
ALBRECHTUS: ‘I am from Italia – perhaps you have heard of it.’
MEDIGAS: (Speaking in Italian) ‘Welcome, then Sodale, to our humble covenant. You have travelled far.’
ALBRECHTUS: ‘Indeed – I come from Tenebri Sanctum and have travelled to this, I will say it, inhospitable land, seeking to make a name for myself. You have many of these ’hedge wizards’ here in this country, no?’
MEDIGAS: ‘This is a raw place – like the wilderness beyond the beyond. There is much of value to be found here, but the finding and refining of it takes time.’
ALBRECHTUS: ‘It is raw, I’ll grant you that. Even the woods turn against you. I got lost few times trying to find your abode, and eventually I had to cast a spell to counter the magic of the forest. Only then could I find my way to your hall.’
RADERIC: ‘Cast a spell?’
ALBRECHTUS: (ignoring the interruption) ‘Before I comma here, I landed by boat at Whitherne and spent some time with Gille Brigte mac Fergusa. You know this man? He is an ass! Not very hospitable to us good magi of the order. He claims no knowledge of a ’hedge wizards’ – that there are none, despite all the rumours I’ve heard in the south. He told me ‘go and see this Peter, Pietro, who makes the boats’. So I go and see him, but he said ‘If Gille Brigte sent you, I no talka to you! And he sent me away.’
RADERIC: ‘You spent time with Gillebrigte? He has no love for members of the order.’
ALBRECHTUS: ‘Its true. Same for his son, Mael Coluim mac Gillebrigte. A real bastaga, that one.’
RADERIC: ‘You saw Malcolm mac Gillebrigte, too? Was this at Cruddgledom Castle? For I have heard rumours that he has taken up the cloth and has been studying at either Viride Stagnum or Dundrennan abbey. This struck me as strange for such a coarse man.’
ALBRECHTUS: ‘I would say there is no holy bone in Malcolm’s body! It is said, during my stay, that he hunted a peasant for sport. He likes to go out and burn their barns. I like a good burning, but it has to be someone deserving, you know.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Albrechtus, how did you find your way here?’
ALBRECHTUS: ‘Gillebrigte, he mentioned your place to me after I see Peter. He said ’Peter is hedge wizard’, but Peter is a good wizard of the order. He showed me his sigil before he told me to go away. So now I come here. You know you are the only covenant here in Galloway?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Yes, that’s why we came here.’
ALBRECHTUS: ‘So, you will help me find ’hedge wizards’?
MEDIGAS: ‘Why are you seeking a hedge wizard?’
ALBRECHTUS: (scowling darkly) ‘Why?! You aska why?! They outlaw! I killa them! I BURRRN them!!’
RADERIC: (speaking plainly in an effort to dampen the emotions in the room) ‘Well, you are likely to be disappointed. Some years ago here in Galloway we had a little incident and all the hedge wizards were burned. Even some of the good wizards were. Gillebrigte was telling you the truth in this case – there are no hedge wizards left. And he would know – he was largely responsible.’
ALBRECHTUS: (dumbfounded) ‘What? No hedge wizards in Galloway?’
RADERIC: ’I’m afraid not. You’ll have to take your search elsewhere.’
THOMAS: ‘What about this Beatha…’
MEDIGAS: (speaking over Thomas) ‘As you pointed out, the covenants are few and far between in this land. Where will you go next?’
ALBRECHTUS: ‘I will go north, I think. But first I go to the Covenant of Blask Esk where I have a contact. It lies to the east of here.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Very well, You must stay the night, and in the morning we will give you anything you need for your journey.
ALBRECHTUS: ’I thank you for your hospitality. I will require a brazier in my room, if you please.’
MEDIGAS: ’I’m afraid we don’t have any braziers. We’re relatively new, you see, and supplies are hard to come by…’
RADERIC: ‘But perhaps a room by the smithy?’
ALBRECHTUS: ‘My fellow magi, you are most generous.’
THOMAS: ‘Angus, please take our guest to William and ask him to find a suitable room. Corwynn, wait outside the door and see that we’re not interrupted again.

After Albrechtus was ushered out, Thomas turned to Raderic.
THOMAS: ‘What about this Bodach mac Beatha character? You know, the hedge wizard that you gave my mandrake to and who might have made a mannikin?! What about him? Huh?’
RADERIC: ‘Let us not speak of him as a hedge wizard. He was not always such.’
MEDIGAS: ‘And we may still have need of him – at the very least to question him. Flambeau are known to burn first and ask questions later.’
THOMAS: ‘He did seem a little unstable. We should keep an eye on him. He could be dangerous. And what is this Tenebri Sanctum covenant – ’shrine of darkness’? That doesn’t sound good. I hope he doesn’t burn any grogs.’

V – A BASTARD OF A COUSIN

MEDIGAS: ‘Getting on with our meeting, I have heard that King Henry of England has declared both Waterford and Dublin to be royal cities under his protection.’
RADERIC: ‘Why should he do this?’
THOMAS: ‘And more to the point, why should we care? Ireland is not our concern.’
MEDIGAS: ‘The answer to the first question is that Henry is trying to reign in Richard de Clare, whom they call Strongbow, and the other renegades that are rampaging all over Ireland. He has done so at the behest of the clergy and Irish nobles. As for how this affects us, well, all of our shipping comes through the Irish Sea – right past Waterford and Dublin. These events could easily impact on the wool trade, which is our livelihood, and if we wish to continue shipping to Italy and Flanders we should be aware of such developments.
THOMAS: ’All the more reason to develop those mining interests you have spoken of.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Exactly.’

Now some new footseps were heard coming from the stairs. A voice called out from below: ‘Hellooo?’
MEDIGAS: (shouting to Corwynn outside the door) ‘Corwynn, would you see who that is, please. We’re not to be interrupted.’
Voices could be heard outside the door and then Corwynn called out.
CORWYNN: (calling through the door) ’It’s someone named Hugh, looking for Thomas Fitz Roy, magisters.’
THOMAS: (getting up and crossing to the door) ‘Oh, bother. Let me see what this is about.’
Outside, at the top of the step, was a rather raggedy man who smelled of over ripe cheese. He had wide, desperate, eyes and a noble demeanour, and yet there was something strangely awkward about him. Thomas instantly decided he didn’t like the look of him.
THOMAS: ‘Yes?’
RAGGEDY MAN: (tripping over his words) ’I’m looking for Thomas fi….’
THOMAS: ‘I am Thomas. What do you want?’
RAGGEDY MAN: ‘Thomas, it is me, cousin Hugh… er… that is if a bastard can have cousins. I understand that you have agreed to help me.’
THOMAS: (firmly) ’I’m sorry, er, Hugh, but I don’t know where you would have gotten that understanding. I don’t believe….’
HUGH: ‘From a good friend of mine – Gilbert fitz Gospatrick of Workington. I’m Sir Hugh de Morville of Westmorland!’
THOMAS: ‘I know of Gilbert fitz Gospatrick, though I haven’t met him. How is it you’re my cousin?’
HUGH: ‘My father, Hugh, was the older brother of Simon fitz Hugh and Richard fitz Hugh de Morville. And you, as I understand, are the bastard son Roy who was the bastard son of… anyway, that makes us second cousins – if a bastard can have cousins.’
THOMAS: ‘All right, but what is it you think I can do for you?’
HUGH: ‘Well, you see, I’ve come up here seeking shelter. I’m afraid I’ve had a bit of a kerfuffle back home in England, you see, and I find I need a place to lie low – a little ‘me’ time as it were’. And actually I’ve been here for quite some time already, but I got lost in the woods for a while and I spent some weeks living in a hut with a crazy old man who had no tongue and then strangely today of all days everything became clear and I managed to find my way into the castle and… here I am! And I’ve been told that you would be expecting me by my good friend Gilbert – I’m not too late, am I?’
THOMAS: ‘That may be, but I’ve never actually met Gilbert nor have I shared words with him so…’
HUGH: ‘But you’re my cousin…’
THOMAS: ‘Well, if a bastard can be a cousin. Say, you’re not the Hugh de Morville who ran into all that trouble over the Archbishop of Canterbury?’
HUGH: ‘Oh, that damned farty old man! He dogs me at every step, curse him! I’m being set up here, damn it. The king told me to do it! He said “What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?” He fairly asked me to kill him, so I bloody well did, and where’s it bloody gotten me? To a muddy little castle in a muddy little kingdom beside a muddy little sea – that’s where!”
THOMAS: ‘Well, what do you want from me? A place to hide? Do you realize that this could get me into serious trouble. We’ve heard the Pope himself is looking for you!’
HUGH: ‘Well… phht. Nobody can even find this place!
THOMAS: ’Very well. Look. I’m in the middle of something at the moment. I’ll have someone find you bath and a place to stay for the night (Angus! Get up here!) My fellows and I will discuss your predicament and we’ll speak to you again later. You can’t stay here indefinitely but perhaps it will be safe for a short time until we can find a better place for you to hide. Angus!

Angus came running up, looking haggard and just a little burnt.
THOMAS: ‘Angus, at last. I fear you’re not quite up to your usual vigour today. Please take our new guest, er, Clement Black (yes, that’s good), here to see William and tell William to find a room for him, preferably not too close the the Italian. Very good.

Thomas returned to the council chamber, closing the door once more behind him.

THOMAS: ‘We seem to be finding no shortage of trouble today. It seems my cousin Hugh de Morville of Wesmorland, of clergy-murdering fame, has decided to show up on our doorstep so as to ’lie low’ for a time. I told him he could stay for a bit, but we’ll need to discuss in earnest what to do with him long term.
RADERIC: ‘We should turn him in.’
THOMAS: ‘Oh, I’m not so sure about that. He’s family. And anyway it seems that King Henry asked him to do it. I’m sure it’s all a misunderstanding.’
RADERIC: ‘But think of the implications should it come to light that he is staying here with us. Why, at our last council meeting did we not discuss that King Henric himself was looking for him? And did Henric not send a sizable delegation to Rome in an effort to prevent the Pope from placing England under interdiction? So I’m sure we can expect that the king’s men will be arriving in Galloway soon enough to look for him. They’ll likely head straight to your uncle who shares the same name.’
THOMAS: ‘True, but they won’t likely come here. My uncle Hugh doesn’t exactly bandy my name about. Still, I curse that Italian for removing the confusion spell from the forest, however temporary. Perhaps I should simply make Hugh someone else’s problem – send him to my uncle.’
RADERIC: ‘Well, we do know some caves that might be a good place to hide him.’
THOMAS: ’That’s brilliant! We could send him to Rath mac Suibhne! I think that’s a plan. And speaking of which, I’ve heard that St Laurence’s well in Fairgarve has dried up – the locals are blaming it on witchcraft. What a well drying up has to do with witchcraft is beyond me…

VI – MESSENGER AND MERCHANT

Thomas was interrupted by yet another call from below. Corwynn poked his head into the room briefly.
CORWYNN: ’Don’t worry, my lords! I’ll take care of this!’
And then he disappeared, tromping down the steps. He returned a few moments later.
CORWYNN: ‘Um. My lords, I’m sorry to interrupt, but the representative from Uchtred is here. Should I show him up?’
MEDIGAS: ‘I think we’re nearly finished, so why not.’

A tidy young man with a neatly trimmed beard was ushered into the room. He wore rather plain clothes but of obvious quality. He bowed to the three magi.
JOHN: ‘I bring greetings from Uchtred mac Fergusa, magisters. My name is Content Not Found: john-nemo. Uchted has sent me here as his representative. ’
MEDIGAS: ’Welcome to Ken Muir, John. I am Medigas of Florence. This here is Thomas fitz Roy and this is Raderic mac Gillolaine
JOHN: ‘I an honoured to make you acquaintance, my lords.’
MEDIGAS: ‘We are no lords. Magister will do fine.’
JOHN: ‘Very well, magister. Lord Uchtred bids that I be your messenger, should you need to send to Castle Fergus for anything. He has mentioned that you will be sending one of your own, a reciprocate, to Castle Fergus should he need to send a message to you.’
THOMAS: ‘Yes, we were just discussing that very thing, as a matter of fact.
MEDIGAS: ’What sort of person do you think would be welcomed by Uchtred?
JOHN: ’Well, I would suggest someone who is both reliable and discrete – perhaps a squire with the wit to know, when asked by the Queen what her husband did on the day, what to say and what not.’

RADERIC: ‘I cannot help but notice that Corwyn lurks closely outside the door to our chamber. The boy would certainly be a fine candidate and, given his fascination with knighthood, would probably jump at the chance.
MEDIGAS: ’Well, we certainly can’t send Ugo.’
THOMAS: ‘Corwynn would be delighted, but he’s very useful to us here, and given that he can;t seem to keep people from the door of our council chamber today I’m having my doubts. Guillaume would also be a good candidate. He’s a little rough around the edges but he’s no stranger to a court and can be discreet.’
RADERIC: ‘I think the boy Corwynn should be rewarded for is (otherwise) good service. We should send him.
MEDIGAS: ’We should have the two of them rotate, but let us send Corwynn first.’
THOMAS: ‘Very well, it is agreed.’

There came yet again the sound of someone pounding up the stairs. There were a few moments of muffled discussion outside the door when Corwynn again poked his head in.
CORWYNN: ’It’s Fergus mac Donchadh. He said there’s a merchant here to see you by the name of Raibert Caird. He is carrying a large book.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Oh, yes, we were to make an exchange of books. Though I’m afraid we have not yet prepared the medical text I was going to provide. Well, send him in, anyway, and we call all judge the value of this bestiary.’

Fergus ran back downstairs. Raderic took this moment to look out of the window and could see the tinker on the ground below. He heaved a great book off the back of his donkey and and followed Fergus into the tower. Moments later he was in the room with the magi.

RAIBERT CAIRD: ‘Greeting everyone. My lord Medigas. It is good that your young lad, Corwynn, here is present, for he can vouch to the terms of our agreement – that I should supply you with a copy of a bestiary from Aberdeen, while in exchange you will give me an alchemical text, or in its place a medical text. Well, I have here the Bestiary in question, though it has taken me longer to obtain it than I first thought.
MEDIGAS: ’Please bring it here and I will review it.’
RAIBERT: (manoeuvring the book into position before Medigas, who stood up to read from it) Yes, I’m sure as you will see that it has many fine letters inked within in a mature yet respectful hand. Sadly no illustrations, though there is this half-finished one of an ant near the beginning. I’d also like to point out these blank pages strategically placed so that you may add your own entries later…’
MEDIGAS: ‘It does appear to be a decent besitary. It has a descent entry on wolves and these a section on aves. However, there are several blank pages at the end and, on the last written page, there is a large ink blob and a smear, almost as if the book was removed from under the quill. It is mostly finished, but not quite.
THOMAS: ’Oh, I don’t know – no illustrations and not completely finished…do we really want it?’
RAIBERT CAIRD: ‘Oh, sirs, though it is not a perfect specimen I’m assured it is the best copy of a bestiary in Galloway!’
THOMAS: ‘Oh, no. I’m sure there are many finer copies. Why, I’ve heard Uchtred alone has three of them.’
RAIBERT CAIRD: ‘Er, well, the best available copy of a bestiary in Galloway, then. If it please your masters, may I remind you that you were going to give me a text in exchange. May I see it?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Ah, yes, the medical text. As it happens, I have been working on it and it is now in about the same state of completion as this text – so perhaps in the end we have a fair trade, afterall.
RAIBERT CAIRD: ’If you will assure me that the text is largely complete I will agree to the exchange. I do not think my buyer is in need of illustrations.’
MEDIGAS: ’Very well, if you are hungry Corwynn here will show you to the laigh hall where to may take a repast. While you eat, I will send someone to fetch the medical text. You may leave the Bestiary here.
At this, Corwynn ushered the merchant out.

VIIPLANS

Raderic, who had stood by the window throughout this exchange, looked out again to see the peddler emerge. He went first to his donkey to make a few adjustments to the packs, then was about to be led away by Corwynn. But now Raderic could see two men on horseback ride into the bailey. One of them had a large knight’s shield partly covered on the back of his horse.

RADERIC: ‘I see two knights on horseback below. The merchant is speaking to them as if he knows them. Who might they be, I wonder?’
THOMAS: ‘More visitors? Indeed it is hard to make decisions today. May I propose that for the next meeting we go out to Tancredus’s hut?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Well, let us make some decisions here before we must deal with these two new visitors.’
THOMAS: ‘Very well. As these two new visitors may very well be in the service of King Henry, the matter of Sir Hugh de Morville is foremost in my mind. I like the idea of giving him some provisions and sending him back to Culwen where he can hole up in the cave.’
MEDIGAS: ‘But the moment we send him into sanctuary somewhere are we not then complicit? Besides, there is no guarantee that the entrance to the cave will be open.’
THOMAS: ‘No, I do not think we will be complicit; it will simply be a matter of turning him away. I owe the man no loyalty, cousin or no. We do not owe fealty to King Henry, but our liege-lord Uchtred may very well be upset to find we are taking sides.’
MEDIGAS: ‘We have not only the English King to consider, but the Church. The pope, himself, is seeking justice. Can we afford to antagonize them?
THOMAS: ’Church politics may not be so simple. Remember that Galloway falls under the see of York, not of Canterbury. Besides, nobody needs know he was ever here. As far as anyone knows he is simply ’Clement Black’. Only Tancredus might know who he is and he won’t be telling anyone, will he?
MEDIGAS: ‘And what of the two knights below?’
THOMAS: ‘Well, we don’t even know who they are at the moment, but if they are looking for Sir Hugh, I’m sure they will move on when we assure them that he isn’t here. Let us wait until we find out what they want and we’ll send Hugh away first thing in the morning. Now, what about the crazy Italian?’
MEDIGAS: ‘He is the one who has caused all this by nullifying the confusing aspect of our forest, for which we owe him no favours. Since he will be going east, perhaps we should send Hugh away with Albrechtus. Then we may tell the knights that Hugh has left in the company of a heretic and let the two parties deal with each other!
THOMAS: ’Ohh, that is both nasty and ingenious! Apparently you people from Florence play for keeps. We can tell the knights today that Sir Hugh left with a practitioner of the dark arts, and that they went north together. They will surely leave right away to try and catch up. Then, in the morning we can send Sir Hugh and Albrechtus away.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Better yet, we should send everyone to the MacEthes of Merton, just in case they are planning something. We will tell Sir Hugh that the knights have been here looking for him, so he cannot stay, but that you have a suitable escort. We will tell Albrechtus that the MacEthes may be harbouring a hedge wizard.’
RADERIC: ‘Ahem! I’m not sure this is the most sober of plans, but it’s a start, I suppose. Clearly, dealing with our many visitors is the most pressing matter. After we have dealt with them, we will go and look for this tomb of Sitric Silkbeard to see what might be found therein. We must be back by the end of October in order to attend this feast day at Dalri. And I am most disturbed by the thought that Bodach mac Beatha might be dabbling in dark arts, so I should like to speak to him as soon as possible. If he is dabbling in things he should not, it might put us into good stead with the Order of Hermes to turn him in. And furthermore, I resent that he might be giving hedge wizards a bad name by dabbling where he should not.’
THOMAS: ‘Indeed – it is people like Bodach who are responsible for creating people like Albrechtus. Believe me, I would be more than happy to rid myself of all of these people who have dropped their problems on our doorstep.’
MEDIGAS: ‘If you go to see Bodach, I will go with you. He is likely to be powerful, and possibly beyond our ability to deal with him. We should take William and a few grogs.’
THOMAS: ‘You two go. I will stay here and try to get rid of all these people.’
RADERIC: ‘I could take the opportunity to visit my family in my village as well. And we might also look further into the location of this tomb if we are going in that direction.’
THOMAS: ‘Agreed then. And adjourned. I will got and take care of our various guests while you two prepare to go west into the countryside.’

END COUNCIL

View
The Piper's Cove (Part 3)
In which a satisfactory conclusion is reached for all but the wyrm.

“But if we were all killed by the serpent, that wouldn’t help anybody!” – Gillaume ‘Le Canard’ de Rouen, later explaining why he had elected to begin the encounter with the wyrm so far back up the tunnel.

XII- EARTHING THE WYRM

Medigas of Florence, Corwynn mac Murchan, Ugo, and Guillaume de Rouen crept down the tunnel to the mouth of the funnel-shaped cavern so they could all take a look at this seemingly sleeping wyrm. Coil upon coil of steely-scaled serpent lay half in submerged the little pool. Each coil looked to be between two and three feet in diameter. Neither its head nor tail were visible, being apparently tucked somewhere within those massive coils. The mound of wyrm heaved almost imperceptibly in a rhythmic fashion, which gave the impression it was sleeping. They crept back up the tunnel and Medigas started to draw his plan against the serpent.

He first ensorcelled the swords of Ugo and Guillaume, for he wished them to try to draw or chase the wyrm into the narrow tunnel in which they now stood. Then he caused two long, narrow stalacmites to form from the ground of the tunnel. These grew out at a sharp angle to the floor with the sharp end pointed up the tunnel away from the wyrm. His plan was to have the three grogs drive the wyrm into the tunnel toward him. As long as the wyrm moved only forward, it should glide easily over the two stalacmites. Once the wyrm was part way over them, Medigas would cause a third stalacmite to growout of the floor pointing toward the wyrm and preventing it from advancing. He would then try to scare the wyrm backward and the wyrm, in its haste, would impale itself upon the two stone spikes at its midsection.

Ugo asked if it would be more expedient to dress one of the grogs, Guillaume perhaps, in spiky armour and induce the serpent to swallow him, but Guillaume quacked angrily at this and Medigas pointed out that they had no spiky armour and that the plan was probably too risky.

And so Ugo crept into the funnel shaped cavern and sidled his way along the perimeter wall, being careful not to wake the snake. The bones and stone shingles on the ground beneath his feet protested with a dry chinking clatter as he trod over them, but the wyrm stirred not. Soon Ugo was on the far side of the cavern. He stood in the mouth of the far tunnel and waited.

Next, Corwynn, who stood on the near edge of the pool, tried to wake the wyrm. It was his job to attract the wyrm’s attention and draw it up the tunnel to where Medigas and Guillaume waited. Ugo was to charge the snake when its head had entered the tunnel, which is why he now waited on the far side.

Corwynn held out his arm and let the end of his quarterstaff fall, as if he had dropped it by accident. He wanted it to look like it was an accident just in case the wyrm was intelligent and objected to being woken. The staff made a loud clattering noise, but the wyrm seemed not to notice. He banged the end of the staff a few more times, but to no effect. Frustrated, he bent down and picked up a good sized piece of shale and flung it at the serpent. This time the wyrm turned.

There came a loud rasping noise as the steely coils began to move against one another. They seemed to move in opposite directions as the serpent unwound, and finally a large, snake-like head emerged from the centre of the mass. It raised itself up into the air, swinging around as it did so, and its gaze came to reston Ugo! It’s beady black eyes stared malevolently at him.

Seeing the flaw in the plan immediately, Ugo decided against running down the tunnel at which entrance he stood. For one thing, he had no idea where it went or what the terrain within was like. He knew only that it led to Rath mac Suibhne’s mines. For another, he thought that the snake would likely charge after him – which meant moving away from the others and the deadly stalacmite trap. He decided, therefore, to try and run past the snake and up the tunnel toward Medigas.

Ugo bolted into action and charged to the left. The wyrm lunged at him with lightning speed, flickering its tongue as it opened its mouth. Ugo tried to fend off its head with his sword, but failed and it bit down hard on his arm. He winced and cried out in pain as he felt the fangs penetrate his armour. He tried to break free of the serpent’s vise-like grip, but was unable to.

Seeing how Ugo was now pinned against one of the side wall by the wyrm, Corwynn tried desperately to get the serpent to notice, which had been the original plan, him by thwacking the end of his quarterstaff against one of the coils of the snake. The snake didn’t seem to notice the blows, however. It began to wind its heavy coils around Ugo. Corwynn tried striking again and again, calling back to Medigas and Guillaume for help.

Guillaume and Medigas now ran forward. Guillaume could see that his friend Ugo was in trouble. Ugo struggled vainly against the constricting snake, his face blood red and his eyes bulging as he struggled to draw a breath. So Guillaume, too, ran forward beside Corwynn and tried to draw the snake’s attention toward them. Medigas also ran forward beind Guillaume – mainly so he could get a better view of what was going on. He could see he needed to come up with a new plan, and quickly. Medigas quickly cast the spell ‘stone of the thousand shards’ on a stone he was holding in his hand. He threw the stone at the wyrm and watched it explode, but the wyrm seemed unhurt.

As the snake continued to squeeze the life from Ugo, Corwynn struck again with his staff, and this time he hit with a solid enough blow to attract the serpent’s attention. Abandoning Ugo for the moment, it swung its great head around toward Corwynn and lunged at him. Corwynn managed to duck to the side just in time to avoid the blow.

Ugo now found himself free of the crushing coils of the serpent as it turned its attention to Corwynn. He slumped to the ground for a moment, for he was very badly wounded, then he staggered to his feet. Leaning on the wall, he tried to make a dash for the far tunnel so as to escape, but a single great coil of the serpent lay in his way. He tried to step over it carefully, but tripped and fell to the ground on the far side.

A second later the cavern darkened and there came a loud roar. It seemed as if the roof of the cavern had collapsed! Yards of earth spilled down from somewhere above onto the serpent, partially covering it in heavy brown loam. The soil slumped down into the pool and created a great muddy wave which spilled over the prone Ugo, and he was lost from sight for the moment, buried in the mud. Medigas had cast an earth spell!

The head of the wyrm reared back in surprise as the weight of soil spilled down over its coils, partly burying it. Guillaume took advantage of the serpent’s distraction to run in and try to stab it in the neck with his short sword, but the blow skittered off its scales. The wyrm looked back at Guillaume and Corwynn with renewed interest, now, and it lunged at Corwynn again, this time biting him.

But then another great mass of soil spilled down, seemingly from the rocky ceiling of the cavern, and again slumped down over the serpent! The soil spilled out into the cavern like an earthen wave, knocking down poor Ugo who was still struggling to escape. Guillaume, too was knocked down, but Corwynn managed to keep to his feet. By now, only the neck and head of the snake were not covered by soil and there was no escape for the great wyrm.

Once again it lunged at Corwynn, the only person within reach. It bit again, nearly crushing Corwynn’s arm in the process. Corwynn was how heavily wounded – another bite like that and he would be done for! But now Guillaume was standing again and he moved in front of Corwynn to protect him.

Suddenly a large boulder fell as if out of nowhere and landed a crushing blow on the neck of the snake where it emerged from the pile. The head of the serpent jerked at the blow, then lunged at Guillaume, who dodged quickly to the side. The young Norman then struck back with a quick jab of his sword. The weapon slipped between two of the scales and emerged with fresh blood on it!

The wyrm looked sluggish now, and seemed unable to react properly. It looked around in a daze, when suddenly another boulder fell from the roof of the cavern. This second boulder careened off the side of the large soil mound and struck the back of the wyrm’s head, pushing it down into the mud. The serpent quivered for a few seconds, and then lay still – seemingly dead.

Guillaume prodded the great wyrm with his sword to confirm that it wasn’t moving. Then he straddled the large head and held his sword aloft with the point aimed downward. He was about the thrust the tip of it into the skull to finish the job when Medigas shouted out:

MEDIGAS: ‘Hold, Guillaume! We must think about how to harvest its magical essence before butchering it!
GUILLAUME: ’Quack.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Let me think, now. It’s magical essence will likely be the eyes? No. The fangs? Hmm – ah, I know, in the skin!
UGO: ‘The skin? All of it, master?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Yes, perhaps it is a bit much. Maybe we will take only the head. With it we can also prove we have accomplished out task.’
GUILLAUME: (gesturing to stab the wyrm in the eye with his sword) ‘Quack?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Yes, make sure it is dead, Guillaume.’

Guillaume thrust his sword deep into the brain of the thing through its eye. As he did so, a gout of ichor squirted back at him, getting into his eyes. He quacked out in alarm and jumped back, rubbing them clean. Then he stood up again and thrust the sword between the scales of the neck and, getting some leverage against one of the boulders, he vigorously sawed it off, quacking all the time like an angry drake.

XIIIRETURN OF THOMAS FITZ GOSPATRICK

Soon they returned to the cave of Rath mac Suibhne. As they approached, they could smell the steamy, fruity, malt of the Heather Yill wafting down toward them and hear the plinking of the harp. As they emerged into the light of the large grotto, the voice of the fairie raised itself over the harp.

GRACE: ‘Do I hear the sound of footsteps?’
Medigas rounded the bend, followed by the weary and beaten Ugo and Corwynn. Guillaume came last, dragging the heavy head of the wyrm in one hand and quacking quietly under his breath.
MEDIGAS: ‘Indeed, you do. We have returned.’
GRACE: ‘Ah, and what have you brought for me, my pretties?’
MEDIGAS: ‘One very large serpent head, as you can see, for we did not drive it out, but killed it outright. And we wish to claim our prize, as per the bargain.’
GRACE: ‘Excellent! Ooh, isn’t that a pretty head. By all means take this filth off my table! You two, get out of there. Make room!”

He gestured to where the still sleeping Thomas fitz Gospatrick lay on the bier. The two beautiful fairy ladies who had been combing his hair stood up and slinked away, pouting.

GRACE: ‘Now, let me see that head. Yes! Stuffed! Cormac,’ he said, gesturing to one of the picts, ‘you can perform the graces, can’t you?’ The pict named Cormac nodded.
MEDIGAS: ‘Would you not prefer the whole body?’
GRACE: ‘Ew. No!’
MEDIGAS: (gesturing toward Guillaume) ‘Tell you what – since the head was not part of the bargain, I’ll give it to you on the condition that you change my companion’s voice back to its normal self.’
GRACE: (blinking once, then snapping his fingers) ‘Done!’
GUILLAUME: (looking puzzled at why everyone was looking at him ‘Quack? Quack? Quoi? Quoi? Mais, qu’est-ce que vous regardez? Incroyable! It’s me! I speak again!’

Several of the picts laid down their picks and shovels and walked over to the wyrm’s head. They picked it up, looked blankly at Medigas, then turned and walked away with it into one of the side tunnels.

Medigas gestured toward the sleeping body of Thomas and the three grogs picked it up. Ugo helped Guillaume to heave the sleeping Thomas over is shoulder.

GRACE: ‘Well, it has certainly been a pleasure doing business with you! Hopefully we will meet again. Perhaps when the lake freezes over I will challenge you to a match! Ha! What a contest that would be!’
UGO: ‘Let us go, master! How do we get out of here.’
GRACE: (pointing to the tunnel from which they had first entered the grotto) ‘Why that way, of course.’
UGO: ‘But… the bear!’
GRACE: ‘Oh, don’t worry about the bear, a glamourous fellow was he.’ Then, looking around to see all the picts standing around doing nothing, he said ‘Hey you lot! Why so idle? Get back to work, all of you. The mines are that way! Haha!’

They proceeded up the tunnel, passing a few familiar places along the way. The way back seemed shorter, and each side fork in the tunnel seemed somehow not the right one. Continuing straight on, they came at last to the place where they had seen the bear. The old bones were still strewn about on the ground, but there was no sign of the bear. Then they came to the deep pot-hole that they had first explored when they entered the cave, and Ugo, remembering that the water was fresh, begged for a drink. Some Medigas cast a quick spell and levitated down to the level of the water and filled a skin, then rose again and gave it to Ugo, who took a swig.

UGO: (spitting the mouthful of water out) ‘SALT!’
GUILLAUME: ‘Salt? But it was fresh before?’
MEDIGAS: ‘We have, perhaps, passed from the realm of the fairie. It is time to go home.’

They emerged a few moments later into the murky daylight of early morning. The two men of Gospatrick’s who had been standing at the entrance to the cave still stood there, and in fact seemed to be still having the same conversation. Medigas interrupted, startling them.

FIRST GUARD: (speaking to the other guard) ‘So I sez to er, I sez…’
SECOND GUARD: (turning at the sound of Medigas’ approach from the cave) ‘Eh? What’s this?’
MEDIGAS: ‘We are back.’
FIRST GUARD: ‘There, you see. Just as I sez – t’ain’t very deep t’all.’
MEDIGAS: ‘You were right, but nevertheless we have brought Sir Thomas with us.’
GOSPATRICK: (calling down from the cliff above) ‘What, haven’t you gone in yet? What’s taking so long down there?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Yes, Sir Gospatrick, we have been and come back out with yous son. Guillame is just coming out with him now. He is asleep.’
GOSPATRICK: ‘What? You mean to say he’s been lying just inside that cave sleeping all this time? Why, I ought to have those men flogged who searched for him before!’
MEDIGAS: ‘Well, it is not so simple. I will come up and explain all!’

As they walked back to the manor at Culwen, Medigas explained it all to Sir Gospatrick fitz Orm of Workington, Lochlann filius Uchtred, and Gilbert fitz Gospatrick. Sir Thomas had awoken and seemed fit enough, but had more wrinkles and grey hairs than he previously had, by all accounts. Sir Thomas remembered nothing of his time in the cave, and so was hearing the tale as if it had happened to someone else. Both he and Gospatrick were sceptical that time had flowed differently in the cave, but Medigas merely pointed to the beards they had all grown while in the gave, even though hey had seemingly only been in there a few moments.

GOSPATRICK: ‘So, it really is a fairy cave, then!’
MEDIGAS: ‘Yes.’
GOSPATRICK: ‘Which means that that damned harper…’
MEDIGAS: ‘Yes, he was a fairy.’
GOSPATRICK: (turning and slapping his son upside the head) ‘I told you he was no good! It never pays to meddle with harpers! And don’t you forget it. One day this land will be yours and you don’t want to go losing it in unscrupulous bets to fairies or anyone else for that matter – so keep your wits about you next time!’
MEDIGAS: ‘Your pardon, sir, but I’m sure it’s not entirely your son’s fault…’
GOSPATRICK: ‘So just how deep was that cave, anyway?’
GUILLAUME: ‘We walked for hours, and there was a bear and a big serpent…’
UGO: ‘We walked four miles, at least, there and back.’
GOSPATRICK: ‘Four miles? God preserve you, Thomas! You see? You didn’t even win the bet!’

Back at Culwen Gospatrick saw to it that everyone was washed, well fed, and had a glass of wine. As a special reward he offered them something of their choice from his cellars or stores. Medigas thought briefly about asking for horse, as Ken Muir had none and he felt it would be helpful to send messages back and forth more quickly. But given their recent trouble with wolves, he ultimately decided on a good breeding pair of hunting hounds. They left the following morning in good spirits, despite their sores, knowing that Gospatrick had been pleased with their service and would report as much as to Uchtred.

XIVCASTLE FERGUS AGAIN

They walked on to Castle Fergus and reported to Uchtred all that had happened. Uchtred expressed surprise and wanted to know more about the fairy cave. He was even more surprised at the mention of heather ale, for it was indeed a famous drink. He expressed concern at the news that Rath mac Suibhne seemed to be in charge of a tribe of picts, whom he had long thought to be extinct from Galloway, and he was more than a little miffed to hear that they were mining something ‘from his hills’ but that Medigas had never bothered to ask what that something might be. He vowed to check all his silver to make sure it was real.

On the subject of metal, Medigas brought up the subject of lead in the hills to the north, and pointed out that where there was lead there was probably also silver. He suggested that if Uchtred should be interested in funding the development of a silver mine, then Medigas would be just the person to find the best seams. Uchtred remained guarded in his response, but Medigas could tell he was interested.

Uchtred, in turn, pushed the issue of exchanging messengers. Medigas was tempted to leave Corwynn – the most reliable of the three grogs with him – but for reasons he would not disclose, Corwynn objected in a rare show of disobedience. Ugo did want to stay because he had rather taken to the lovely serving girl, Sara, whom he had met on his previous pass through, but Medigas said ‘no’, knowing it would be a mistake to leave the dumb, mean, amorous Italian sailor behind on his own. That left Guillaume, who (with a wink at Ugo to get his goat) was willing to stay, but Medigas also felt that he maybe wasn’t the most reliable person to act as an ambassador to Castle Fergus, either. In the end, he decided to postpone the decision until he could return to Ken Muir to discuss it with his fellow magi. He promised to send someone right away upon his return to the covenant.

Uchtred, on the other hand, had no trouble picking one of his men to go with them – a young man named John Nemo – evidently a bastard.

And so they returned to Ken Muir.

XV – EPILOGUE

Corwynn knocked tentatively at Magister Thomas’ door, then entered at the sound of a muffled grunt.
THOMAS: (staring intently at something on his work bench) ‘Yes?’
CORWYNN: ‘Your pardon, Magister, but it is Corwynn.’
THOMAS: (looking up) ‘Ah, Corwynn. I have heard about your little adventure – it was well done.’
CORWYNN: ‘Thank you, magister. I have a message for you.’
Corwynn pulled out the small satchel that had the rolled up message from Gilbert fitz Gospatrick and the small, clinking, bag that Corwynn had never dared to look into.
CORWYNN: ‘This is from a man named Gilbert fitz Gospatrick, of Culwen, but whom I met at Castle Fergus. He bade me give you the message in person and in private. He said you will receive a visitor soon, and that you should know this in advance.’
THOMAS: ‘A visitor? Curious.’ A took the satchel from Corwynn, then looked back at his work table without opening it. After a moment, he asked ‘Was there anything more, Corwynn?’
CORWYNN: ‘No magister.’
THOMAS: ‘Very good. That will be all then.’
CORWYNN: (letting himself out) ‘Thank you, magister.’

END SESSION

GM NOTE: Well serpents are endemic to northern England and southern Scotland and there are many tales surrounding them. Alan Temperley recounts a tale of a well serpent that terrorized Dalri, for instance. The wyrm was huge and coiled itself around the motte, leaving only its tail in the well. After it had eaten a good number of sheep and the locals didn’t know hot to get rid of it, a blacksmith fashioned for himself a suit of spikey armour and allowed himself to be swallowed. In this way the serpent was killed. Whether Ugo had heard this tale when he suggested dressing Guillaume in spikey armour, or had come to the conclusion on his own, is not known.

Another and very different account of a well serpent at Corriehill, near Lockerbie, is found in an article of the Transactions of the Dumfries shire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, Vol. 74, 2000 written by Iain Fraser. It can be found on page 107 of the document linked above.

Fraser repeats the following anecdote, recorded by a surveyor named James Cowan in 1850:

Dragon’s Well
A name given to a Well on the Farm of Corriehill. By tradition of the district it is stated that a dragon inhabited the Churchyard of Corrie, and committed great havoc among the flocks, and several people had made hair breadth escapes; several attempts were of course made to kill it but without effect, because whenever it was attacked it ran to this Well and drank some water after which it had the power of vomiting fire; A man of the name of Johnstone at last volunteered to kill it and having tied his horse to the gate he went and put his coat over the well; and when he came back he found the Dragon had devoured half of the horse, it then ran to the Well to get its usual drink, but the Well being covered, it was not able to vomit any fire so it vomited flesh and that not being so dangerous was at last killed, quartered and buried at Cockplay, Warlock Knowe, Mile Knowe, and Jane’s Knowe. (Name Book, Dumfriesshire, No.27, p.219)

Adventure Log

View
The Piper's Cove (Part 2)
Deeper into the Piper's Cove

From the bonny bells of heather
They brewed a drink long-syne,
Was sweeter far than honey,
was stronger far than wine.
They brewed it and they drank it,
And lay in a blessed swound
For days and days together
In their dwellings underground.
R.L. Stevenson

VI – FLIGHT INTO THE CAVES

Medigas of Florence fled desperately deeper into the Piper’s Cove, ducking and weaving under low ceilings and over rocks. All he could think about was that the bear would be upon him soon to tear him to bits. The sounds of the bear roaring, the clatter of arms and armour, and the shouts of the three grogs, Ugo, Guillaume de Rouen, and Corwynn mac Murchan, were not encouraging;

UGO ‘Boss! If you can hear me, run! UNGHHH! (followed by a clatterring of metal)
GUILLAUME: ’Merde! I’m down! I’m down!’
CORWYNN: ‘Ack! Run for your lives! We’ve got to flee before it devours us!’

Medigas ran on in panic. He ran on past several other cave openings, getting deeper and deeper into the cave system, until all he could hear was his own laboured breathing.

…..

Some time later Medigas forced himself to stop and, when his lungs had calmed down, he listened. He thought he heard bootsteps. He turned to peer up the tunnel as far as his magical torchlight would allow. A echoing call came down the tunnel.

UGO: ‘Ey! It’s me-e, Ugo-o-o. Who’s there-ere? I see the light-ight-ight…’
MEDIGAS: (still fearful) ‘Is the bear with you?’
UGO: ‘No-o-o. It’s gone. Master, I’m coming-ing.’
MEDIGAS: (as Ugo approached from the dark) ‘Are you hurt? Your shoulder…’
UGO: ‘Mmmm, it’s nothing to worry about. The bear pushed me against the wall a few times. It was so strong, and our blows didn’t hurt it. We ran. At least, Corwynn and I ran – I think Guillaume came after us, but I’m not sure. I lost them in the tunnels.’
A new sound came to them from deeper in the cave.
MEDIGAS: ‘Laughter? Do you hear that? It seems to come from up ahead.’
UGO: ‘No, I hear nothing.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Let us investigate. I like not the idea of going back, lest the bear be there. It seems forward is the only way to go.’

Proceeding down the tunnel further, the sound became more clearly that of a group of people conversing and laughing casually.

UGO: ‘It sounds festive, master.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Aye, but who would be so cheerful in a bear cave? Fairy folk of the isle? If so, we must be careful.’
UGO: ‘But I heard those folk were friendly.’
MEDIGAS: ‘They can be, but they can be mischievous too, like tricksters. Their ways are hard to fathom.’
UGO: ‘Ah, well. They won’t trick me, master, worry not. In fact I’ve never been tricked, that I know of.’

The cave descended slightly and then a definite set of steps appeared, carved in the stone floor. Below, the noises were louder and accompanied by clinking noises, as if from cups. A glow could be seen coming from further in the cave, and the shadows of whomever made the noise played on the wall.

UGO: ‘I should go first, master, in case there be tricks or trouble.’
MEDIGAS: ’Very well, but watch your step.

Ugo put his hand on the cave wall to steady himself and then took the first hesitant step down. The moment his foot fell on the first of the carved steps there came a loud ‘GASP!’ sound from below and then all the noise ceased abruptly. The glow at the bottom of the steps disappeared, as if someone had blown out the last candle. Ugo turned to look back at Medigas, who still held his magical torch. The he looked back down the steps and called out;

UGO: ‘Hello-o-o’? We are lost-ost-st.’
He looked back at Medigas, who only shrugged.
UGO: (trying a different tactic) : ‘We are lost in here and if you don’t show yourselves and help us I’m going to rip your damned wings off-ff-ff!!’
A high-pitched twittering laughter drifted up the tunnel in response, accompanied by a single high-pitched voice saying ‘oooOOOOooooh.’
UGO: (unhappily) ‘Master, they mock us…’

VIICORWYNN AND GUILLAUME

Corwynn was standing alone in a dark, natural tunnel. He had no torch. There was only enough ambient light to make out the black opening at either end of the tunnel against the merely almost-black of the cave walls. He could hear a little clicking from the tunnel behind him, indicating movement. Distantly, he could also hear voices calling to one another, but couldn’t make out the words. Certainly there was no sound to indicate a bear was nearby. He decided to head back, cautiously, and picked the left fork, which somehow seemed less dark. Soon he could see a glow in the tunnel ahead of him, which got brighter and seemed to move around. Then he heard a voice;

GUILLAUME: (calling out) ‘Allo? Allo? Where is you guys?’
CORWYNN: (relieved) ‘Bless you, Guillaume! A friendly voice!’
GUILLAUME: ‘Corwynn? Is that you? Come toward the light, friend!’
CORWYNN: ’I’m coming. Are you alright? Where is the bear?’
GUILLAUME: ‘I don’t know – I think we outran it. My head is still spinning from where the bear knocked me into a rock. Should we go back?’
CORWYNN: ‘Do you hear that? The sound of a harp playing.’
GUILLAUME: ‘No, I can hear only ringing of bells.’
CORWYNN: ‘Let us not go that way – we need to find the others.’

But after casting about in the narrow tunnels and listening more, Corwynn could hear what he took to be strange twittering laughter from one direction and a distinctly bear-like snuffling from another, neither of which appealed to them. They decided to head down the tunnel toward the sound of the harp, after all.

That passage opened into a much larger cavern – so large the light of their single torch couldn’t reach the far wall or the ceiling, and their voices echoed sharply. The faint sound of the harp also echoed through the chamber. It was impossible to pin-point a source; it seemed to mock them. They decided to circumnavigate the chamber by proceeding along one wall, and to keep going until they could find their original entrance, which they now marked with a single arrow to indicate the direction they were going by using the charred end of one of the torches. The floor of the cave descended slightly and the wall curved to the left, and eventually they came to another tunnel. They marked this second entrance with two arrows, and then kept going. The cave wall, such as it was, continued to curve to the left and then rise slightly, and finally they came to a third tunnel mouth. They marked this one with three arrows and proceeded around. The next tunnel entrance they came to was marked with a single arrow.

CORWYNN: ‘A single arrow. We’ve returned to our starting point. This means there are three exits from this cavern.’
GUILLAUME: ‘Er, but I marked the first first arrow by pointing in the direction we walked. This arrow is pointing back at us. It’s pointing the wrong way!’
CORWYNN: ‘Are you sure?’
GUILLAUME: ‘Yes. The others must have been here first and marked this, telling us which way to go.’
CORWYNN: ‘We should go back, then. They must have marked one of the other tunnels.’

They marched back to the last tunnel they had been at, expecting to find their three arrow marks. What they found were three arrows pointing into the tunnel, rather than to the left.’

CORWYNN: ‘Three arrows pointing into the tunnel. They must be using the same code as us. But where are our arrows?’
GUILLAUME: ‘This is confusing. We must have missed a tunnel.’
CORWYNN: ‘Or someone has erased our tunnel mark and made a new one!’
GUILLAUME: ‘Why would someone do that? And who? This harper we seek?’
CORWYNN: ‘I have an idea – I’ll go to the centre of this cavern with one end of the rope while you hold the other. Then I’ll mark an arrow in the sand pointing to where you are. Then you can walk to the left, keeping to the cavern wall. Call out when you reach a new cave mouth. I’ll mark a double arrow, then a triple arrow, and so on until you’ve gone all the way around, which I’ll be able to tell when the rope is aligned with the first arrow again.’
GUILLAUME: ‘Okay.’

So Corwynn went into what he thought was the centre of the cavern with one end of the rope and Guillaume, holding the other end of the rope, walked to the left, sticking to the wall. At the next cave mouth he came to, he called out:

GUILLAUME: ‘Oh, Corwynn…I do not like this cave!’
CORWYNN: What do you see?’
GUILLAUME: ‘Two arrows pointing to the ground.’
CORWYNN: ‘Okay. Keep going.’

At the next tunnel entrance, Guillaume found there were no markings whatsoever. Guillaume shouted out the results with a few choice swear words in the Normand dialect. At the next tunnel entrance he found a single arrow pointing up. By then he had returned to the start, according to Corwynn’s rope.

CORWYNN: ‘Three exits. I think that one that you now stand at is the way we came in, and that’s the way we should go.’
GUILLAUME: ’Okay, I wait for you, then.

VIIISPRITES

Ugo, meanwhile, lit a torch and together he and Medigas proceeded cautiously down the steps to where the noise of laughter had come from. At the bottom of the steps a small cavern opened up, and in the centre say a long table piled high with delicious-smelling food. There was not a person to be seen, however. The table looked like it had recently been abandoned. The food lay half-eaten on platters and many of the cups were still full with bright red wine.

UGO: ‘Master, a feast. And not too soon – I’m famished.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Careful, Ugo, this is not meant for us.
UGO: (eyeing the red wine, which he had been craving) ’Oh, but master, the fairies were scared away and it would be a shame for this all to go to waste.’
MEDIGAS: ‘It would not be wise to risk their wrath.’
UGO: ‘But master, they’re only fairies…I will squish them if they try anything.’
MEDIGAS: ‘You recall those tales of sirens, you mentioned? Well, fairies use food the way that sirens use their song – to lure men to a bad end. You brought candle wax for your ears, but did you bring anything to block your sense of taste?’
UGO: (thinking about this) ‘Oh, ahhh…. Maybe the wine, then…?’
MEDIGAS: ‘The wine is surely worse. You must not eat anything now, tempting though it is.’
UGO: (under his breath) ‘Hmmm. I save one for later, then.’

While Medigas looked around the rest of the room, Ugo reached out the plucked an apple from a bowl and shoved in into one of his pouches. There were two other tunnels leading from the room. From one came a breeze, upon which Medigas detected the tang of salt air.

UGO: ‘Salt? You mean it leads to the ocean? But we cannot leave yet without Guillaume and Corwynn, master.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Nor without having found Sir Thomas and his wayward harper. But I will mark this wall for later.’

Medigas cast a quick spontaneous spell to create a mark only he could see. He didn’t want Guillaume and Corwynn to accidentally stumble upon his marker and mistake it for instructions.

Then they decided to head back the way they came.

They climbed the steps and proceeded through the tunnel for a while when a wee cheeping noise reached their ears. Ugo held his torch forward and could see by the glint that something small was moving about on the tunnel floor ahead.

UGO: ‘Master, it’s those damned fairies!’
MEDIGS: ‘Let us ignore them for now, Ugo, and keep going.’
UGO: ‘By maybe I could catch one, master. Here, hold my torch.’

Ugo crept forward and could more clearly see something flopping on the ground ahead. He leapt forward and grabbed at it and there was a loud and high-pitched squeal. Ugo stood up and peered into his hands to see what he had grabbed. It appeared to be a beautiful little woman, no larger than a large dragonfly. She wore an elegant golden gown and pair of wings grew from her back. The wing on the left fluttered madly, but the one on the right hung limp. She wriggled and tried to pry herself from Ugo’s strong grip.

UGO: ’It’s a fairy! Master! I caught one! I got you now you little…’
MEDIGAS: ‘Ugo! Do not hurt her!’
UGO: (slyly) ‘I won’t if she tells us how to get out of here! How do we get out of here, fairy?!’

The fairy looked around desperately while her left wing flapped like a zephyr. Ugo ran back to where Medigas stood, his hand held out proudly for the master to see. Medigas peered at the damaged wing opened his mouth to speak to it, but was uncertain which language would be most appropriate. Ugo reached into his pocket for the apple and pinched off a little piece. He offered it to her, but as she reached out to accept it he jerked his hand back meanly.

UGO: ‘Oh, no you don’t. No apple until you help us get out of here!’ He continued to taunt her by moving the apple closer and then jerking it away again. ‘We want to get out of here! Out! Out! Which way? Thomas! Thomas! We look for T-h-o-m-a-s.’
MEDIGAS: ‘And Rath mac Suibhne. Do you know Rath mac Suibhne?’

At the mention of the harper, her face changed and she emitted some small chirping noises. She pointed at the apple. Medigas nodded to Ugo, who gave her the small piece of apple that he had pinched off. It seemed to improve her mood and the motor function of her wing. When she asked for more, however, Ugo refused.

UGO: (scowling at her) ‘Oh, nononono! Rath mac Suibhne! Tell us where to find him!’
She turned plaintively to Medigas and tried to negotiate with him in her chirping fashion. Medigas broke off another piece of apple and gave it to her. After eating it, she seemed able to move both her wings equally well. Then she pointed up the tunnel, as if to say that they should go that way.

They came to a split in the tunnel and when they got there they paused. Medigas asked her which way to go next. She pointed at the ground.

MEDIGAS: ‘She wants to be put down.’
UGO: ‘Down? No! I’m not letting her go, master!’
She crossed her arms and looked stubbornly at Medigas. Ugo still held her tightly in one hand. With the other, he reached out and pinched the end of one of her wings between his finger and thumb, tugging gently and saying deliberately;
UGO: ‘Rath mac Suibhne! Rath. Mac. Suibhne! Tell us or else!’ He pulled her wing again for emphasis.

At this threat she merely became more agitated and began to chirp faster, higher, and louder until her voice was filling the tunnel. It became almost too much to bear and Ugo was tempted to let go so he could cover his ears. He stopped pulling on her wing, but didn’t let her go. She continued to scream, but then suddenly stopped. She put her little hands on her hips and stared meaningfully at Ugo, then wrinkled her nose at him. Ugo scowled back. Then the sound of many more little high-pitched voices came from up one of the tunnels, as if answering her call. A faint glow seemed to be rising from that direction, too.

UGO: ‘Master, her friends are coming. Good! I would rather fight the fairies than walk around in the darkness for God knows how long and have them laugh at us!’

A cloud of little glowing, butterfly-like figures emerged from one of the tunnels, high up near the roof of the cave, and fluttered toward them.

MEDIGAS: ‘Ugo, do not hurt her. In fact, I think you should let her go.’
UGO: ‘But master, she’s all we’ve got! Surely your magic can protect us?’
The cloud if little fairies came closer still, and when they were almost upon them Ugo lost his nerve and extended his arm toward Medigas.
UGO: ‘Master, you take her!’
Medigas accepted the fairy, and Ugo started waving his torch above his head to fend off the fairies. Medigas let her go immediately and she took flight, joining the others in the cloud. The the entire cloud swung around and started to flutter down one of the tunnels.

UGO: ‘Master, we should follow!’ Ugo started to run after the fairies, but then stopped to make sure Medigas was coming. Medigas was sceptical, feeling it would be wiser to run the other way, but followed the grog all the same.

The two of them ran down the tunnel after the sprites.

IX – THE GOLDEN POOL

The tunnel that Guillaume and Corwynn were following descended sharply, but then gradually levelled out and began to climb again. At the bottom of the curve, however, was a small side tunnel from which a glow of light and the sound of dripping water came. They peered into this side tunnel and found that it ended at a small cavern into which a shaft of light shone. In the centre of the cavern was a small pool of crystal-clear water with a sandy bottom. On the middle of the pool was a small sandy island covered with moss and, glinting in the light, a pile of gold coins!

GUILLAUME: ‘Eh, Corwynn, look at that! Gold! I have never seen so much!’
CORWYNN: ’That’s gold? I’ve never seen any before. I wonder who it belongs to?’
GUILLAUME: ‘Belongs to? Why, it’s lost in this cave. It probably fell down through that hole and has been here so long nobody remembers it.’
CORWYNN: ‘This cavern it tricky, though, and I do not trust it. My father told me that things that look too good to be true probably are.’
GUILLAUME: (poking at the pile with his sword) ‘Eh, no, it seems normal to me. Maybe we only take a little – don’t need it all, eh? That would be greedy.’

Guillaume hopped over to the little island and bent down to take a closer look. He scanned around for any sign of a trap, and even ran his hand through the clear water and smelled it. Then he reached out and grabbed a handful to put it in his pocket. He smiled at Corwynn and opened his mouth to say something reassuring, but all that came out was the ‘quack’ of a duck! Guillaume looked shocked and confused for a moment, then said;

GUILLAUME: ‘Quack! Quack-quack-quack QUACK!’

Guillaume hurredly threw the coins back on the pile, then quacked once quizzically, and a second time despondently. Corwynn shook his head.

CORWYNN: ‘I warned you not to touch it…’
GUILLAUME: ‘QUACK!’

Corwynn reached into his pouch and produced one of the little silver farthings that Sir Gilbert fitz Gospatrick had given him earlier and tossed it on the pile. He was hoping that the sacrifice might help appease whatever had changed Guillaume’s voice.

GUILLAUME: ‘Quack.’
CORWYNN: ‘I don’t know! We need to find Magister Medigas – he’s the only one who can help you now.’

Guillaume reached down and picked up the little silver bit that Corwynn had tossed down. He offered it back to Corwynn, but the grog refused to take it back, so Guillaume shrugged and placed it in his own pouch.

They returned to the main tunnel and followed it uphill. Guillaume quacked frequently as they went, hoping that his voice would return, but it didn’t. Soon they could see a little glow up ahead – it swelled and lightened the tunnel ahead of them, then subsided. Seconds later, another glow lightened the tunnel and Ugo came running into view, carrying a torch. Guillaume cried out in his excitement at seeing him;

GUILLAUME: ‘QUACK QUACK QUACK!’

Ugo, running after the cloud of fairies, stopped and did a double take. He could see Corwynn and Guillaume standing there, but was uncertain as to the source of the noise he had just heard.
Ugo cried out;

UGO: ‘Fairies! I found the fairies! They’re leading us to Rath mac Suibhne!’ Follow us!

Ugo took off again, followed by Medigas and the two other grogs. Corwynn excitedly tried to relate the story behind the quacking to Medigas as they ran, but before he could finish they burst into a large and well-lit cavern.

The air was fresh and a waterfall spilled gently down one of the walls and collected in a large pool at the bottom. Beams of sunlight shone down from some unseen openings above, and ferns and other small plants grew from the walls of the cave. The little cloud of fairies burst into the cavern from the tunnel and flew upward to swirl around amidst the greenery and flowers. The four companions stood dumb-founded for a moment before the plinking sound of a harp reached their ears.

X- RATH MAC SUIBHNE

At the sound of the harp, Ugo reached into his pocket and brought out the candle he had been carrying. He broke off two bits and stuffed them into his ears, then handed the candle to Corwynn who did the same.

Guillaume quacked in amazement at the size of the cavern.

Ugo, Medigas, and Corwynn made straight for the pool. Guillaume followed, but he peered up at the walls of the covern and noticed several groupings of small, grey-clad, black-haired, men and women sitting around on ledges. Many of these characters seemed preoccupied with various tasks; some seemed to be cleaning small picks and shovels, others were sleeping, one smoked a pipe; but a few watched the four men as they crossed the floor of the cavern to the pool.

Guillaume tapped Medigas on the shoulder and tried to point out the strange people on the ledges, quacking as he did so. Medigas removed his lenses from his eyes and rubbed the condensation off of them, then peered around, but seemed unable to see what Guillaume was pointing to. None of the others could see anything either, and since Guillaume was unable to explain what he was seeing, he gave up and resorted to sullenly watching the strange people while the others inspected the pool. The water in the pool was shallow and crystal clear. Small white fish with beards swam around under the waterfall.

Standing at the pool afforded the four companions a much better opportunity to look around the rest of the cavern. To the left, in a location that had been blocked from their view when they first entered the cavern, a broad beam of light illuminated the floor. Lying in the light, on an old stone bier, was the peaceful figure of a sleeping man. His long golden hair was spread out behind his head and spilled over the side of the bier, reaching almost to the floor. Three small but beautiful maidens combed it out slowly, starting at the scalp and running their combs right to the tips of his hair. With each stroke his hair seemed to grow a little longer. One of the maids looked up at the men and smiled. Medigas guessed that this man was none other than Thomas fitz Gospatrick.

Off to the left of the bier were two small men with straight, dark, hair and clothes made of rough, grey fur. The stood on either side of a large stone vat and stirred its contents with a stout stick.

Perched on a rocky outcrop above the bier was another man, one with wavy dark brown hair. He lounged on what appeared to be a number of colourful cushions and plucked languidly at a golden harp. Beside him was a goblet. Medigas guessed that this was the harper, Rath mac Suibhne. When the harper saw Medigas and the grogs, he stopped playing the harp and sat up. He raised his goblet in a toast, and in a cheerful voice, he said;

GRACE: ‘Helloooo. So nice of you to join us!’
MEDIGAS: (looking around) ‘We are here for Sir Thomas…’
GRACE: ‘Oh, I know that!
MEDIGAS: ’…and unfortunately he’s going to have to come with us.’
GRACE: ‘Oh, I don’t think so. He’s a dreadful bore, but he’ll stay here for a while, yet. You may call me ‘Grace’, by the way.’

Uncertain what to say, Medigas remained silent for the moment.

GRACE: ‘Oh, come now. You’re going to try harder than that, aren’t you? Where’s the sport in giving up?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Well, as you can probably tell from my accent, I’m not from these lands and I do not know your venerable customs. What sort of arrangements would normally be made for the return of a kidnapped knight?’
GRACE: ‘Oh, a ransom of some sort, naturally. That’s how it works, isn’t it? I’ll do something for you if you’ll do something for me!’
MEDIGAS: ‘And would would this ransom be?’
GRACE: (sighing at having to think of everything himself) ‘Sigh Fine. Well, what have you got to trade?’
Stumped, Medigas remained silent for a moment. He wanted time to think. Grace was impatient, though, and interrupted him.
GRACE: ‘Come on, come on. I haven’t got all DAY, you know!’ He said this in such a way that it was patently obvious that he did have all day. Then, with a smirk, he added ‘Sir Thomas isn’t getting any younger, you know!’
Corwynn glanced over at Sir Thomas. With each comb of his hair, it seemed a little less golden and more grey. Was Sir Thomas aging as they slept. Were they all ageing? He had heard that time passed differently in the realm of the fae.

UGO: (whispering) ‘Master, maybe you need to offer your first born child to the fairy?’
MEDIGAS: (ignorning Ugo and speaking to Grace) ‘By my thinking, you must be an ally of Gille Brigte mac Fergusa, brother to Uchtred mac Fergusa.
GRACE: (leaning forward in surprise) ’Who? Nooooo! Why would you think that?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Because you have taken the son of one of Uchtred’s allies.’
GRACE: ‘Bah! If I let myself be bothered by such trivialities as petty human differences I would never get anything done. No, this man was simply annoying and I took him because it pleased me! And because I could! So there! And now that you are here, you will offer me something for his return, because that is the way it works!!’ With these last words, Grace’s voice grew harsh and deep with challenge.
GUILLAUME: ‘Quack!!’
GRACE: (wagging his finger at Guillaume) ‘What was that? Oh my, you look like a man but quack like a duck! Tut, tut! A little greedy, were we? One shouldn’t touch what doesn’t belong to him! Nobody ate an apple, I hope!’ He looked around at the group. Ugo tried to look innocent.
MEDIGAS: ‘Sadly, I have little to offer you. I can enchant things, though. I could make you something, mmm, magical.’
GRACE: ‘Hmmm. No, I don’t think so. That would take too much time – you’d be an old man by the time you finished! Ha!’
MEDIGAS: (changing tack) ‘Oh! I know. I have a comb that belonged to Sir Thomas. I propose that a neutral party place the comb somewhere, and they you and I each form competing teams to retrieve it. Whoever brings it back first wins.’
GRACE: ‘Well, much as I like a game, I can’t help but wonder what I get out of that.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Well, it would be highly entertaining…’
GRACE: ‘True, though I’m already entertained. Maybe for my prize I get to keep the quacker here for a year!’ He smiled broadly at Guillaume.
GUILLAUME: ‘QUACK!’
UGO: ‘I think he says ’yes’, master!’
GUILLAUME: ‘QUACK QUACK!’ he said, quickly correcting himself.
MEDIGAS: ‘No, that won’t do.’
CORWYNN: (stepping forward confidently) ‘Well, I’ll challenge your champion to a fight! How about that?’
GRACE: ‘Champion? I don’t have a champion! What do you take me for? Anyway, you didn’t give Mr. Bear much of a challenge, did you! But if you’re up for a fight I’ve got just the thing! There is a certain someone who is rather annoying me and I would like to see him gone from my domain. You could fight him! You could even bring your friends! And if you win, I’ll give you young Sir Thomas, here!’
MEDIGAS: ‘And if we lose?’
In answer to this, Grace merely made a sad face, sighed, and plucked four descending notes on his harp.
MEDIGAS: ‘Tell us more about this person you want gone.’
GRACE: (pointing to a tunnel) ‘You see that tunnel? That leads to my mines, but a smelly old wyrm has moved into them and is now blocking our way into the best pits. My miners…’ he swept his hand around in a broad arc, gesturing to all the little picts that were lounging around on the ledges, ‘…have been put out of work. I would consider it a worthwhile trade if you were to go into that tunnel and chase the nasty old wyrm away! And if you do, I’ll give you this riffraff here.’ He pointed down to where Sir Thomas was having his hair combed.
MEDIGAS: ‘Well, much as the scavenger hunt would have been interesting, I think we are much better suited as a group to chase out your smelly wyrm. We accept!’
GUILLAUME: ‘Quack.’
GRACE: ‘Excellent. Well. There’s the tunnel that leads to the wyrm. Have at it!’
MEDIGAS: ‘Would you mind if we rested a bit? Two of my companions were somewhat battered by the bear, and I am wearied from casting magic.’
GRACE: ‘Oh, how tiresome it must be to be a human. But certainly you may rest. And my friends here are brewing up some Heather Yill as we speak! Maybe you would like to have a quaff?’
MEDIGAS: ‘And how long would a quaff of heather yill extend our stay, here?’
GRACE: (shrugging) ‘I don’t know – it’s out of my control, you know!’
CORWYNN: (excitedly) ‘Heather Yill! Magister, that’s a most famous drink. They tell tales that an Irish King chased the last of the picts off the cliffs of the cliffs of the mull of Galloway in search of the recipe. Corwynn then related the tale of the disappearance of the recipe for Heather Yill.

After Corwynn told his tale, Ugo was the first to drink a quaff of the yill. One of the picts stirring the pot dipped a chalice into it and drew out a draught. He handed it to Ugo who chased it back. Ugo stood in mute contemplation for a moment, then nodded. ’It’s good!’ he said with a smile.

The others all drank as well. Everyone felt better after having the drink. Their weariness fell away and their wounds seemed to heal. Guillaume seemed to be the one to enjoy it most, but was unable to express how it made him feel. He would later explain that after drinking it, the world appeared in sharper focus to him, but that he perpetually felt like he had a bit of heather stuck in his teeth from the drink and as a result never smiled as much as he used to.

XI- THE WYRM

Some time later Ugo once again led the way down a tunnel. This one supposed led to the wyrm, and stank with the foul smell of decay. They descended at a steady pace, occasionally coming across the bones of sheep, cow, deer, and also once or twice those of a human. The tunnel then ended in a vertical shaft which was about two and a half yards across. A rope bridge once crossed this shaft, leading to another tunnel, but it had been cut or broken in the middle. Looking up, they could see a dim light – the shaft probably broke the surface somewhere. Looking down, there was only darkness. Guillaume dropped a torch down and watched it fall until it plopped into the water which filled the bottom of the well. ‘Quack.’ he said, matter-of-factly. He gestured for Corwynn’s quarter-staff an reached out to hook the other end of the rope bridge. By allowing Ugo to hold Corwynn’s belt, Corwynn as able to reach out and tie the end of the bridge with a piece of their rope. This allowed them to cross the shaft by dangling from the rope.

The tunnel continued farther down for quite some time, at least a mile by Medigas’ estimation. It finally emerged into a funnel-shaped cavern with a central shaft in the ceiling down which dim light came. In the centre of the floor of the cavern was a pool of water, and coiled up in this pool was a huge wyrm with glinting, black scales. A dull rumbling noise seemed to emanate from the snake. Bones were strewn all about the cavern. Ugo backed cautiously away and informed the other of what he had seen.

UGO: ‘The wyrm is there. The fairy said to chase it way. Any ideas, boss?’

Medigas had one, but it was a risky one.

END SESSION

Adventure Log

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The Piper's Cove (Part 1)
June 26, 1171, Medigas answers a summons from Uchtred

I – CASTLE FERGUS

Medigas of Florence led the way up the hill from Kirkcudbright toward Castle Fergus. The three grogs, Corwynn mac Murchan, Ugo, and Guillaume de Rouen folowed closely behind. Corwynn was very excited at the prospect of meeting Uchtred mac Fergusa or his knights and spoke almost incessantly all the way up the hill. He described how, in his grandfather’s day, King Fergus, father to Uchtred and Gille Brigte mac Fergusa, had constructed his castle on several islands in the small loch – it had taken the labour of many men many months to move the earth, to cut the peles for the pallisade and shape the timber for the hall and stables. He had heard many stories, but had never actually been there himself.

As they passed the old church dedicated to St. Cuthbert, for which the town below was named, Ugo egged the young Corwynn on. Corwynn, you see, was gullible; the other grogs liked to bait him, telling him that one day he too could become a knight, despite his low station. Corwynn fell for it every time.
Medigas plodded on in silence several steps ahead of the others. He was lost in thought, considering how best to handle the king when they should meet.

When they crested the top of the hill Castle Fergus came into view, rising from the waters of the loch. Its hall and tower dominated the cluster of buildings and were easily visible above the low pallisade. Smoke from several fires rose lazily into the air, and the faint sound of hammering could be heard, perhaps coming from the castle smithy. The grey hill, Cnoc-odhair, (Knockower as the Ingles called it) brooded to the east.

Photo copyright Helen Bowick - http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2106627
CASTLE FERGUS AS IT APPEARS TODAY WITH KNOCKOWER IN THE BACKGROUND

They rounded the north end of the loch and made their way through the small village that had sprung up near the castle causeway. Two of Uchtred’s men stood watch over the near end this; Medigas approached with Guillaume and the other grogs at his side and introduced himself. The two guards looked uncomfortable.

GUARD: ‘Keep back, you lot. We’ve been told to keep the causeway clear.’
MEDIGAS: (removing his eyepieces and rubbing the lens clean with part of his robe) ‘Are you some sort of guard? I am the magus Medigas from Ken Muir. Lord Uchtred has summoned me.’
GUARD: (stammering an answer after exchanging a surprised look with the other guard) ‘Uh….yes….we were told to expect you only, that is… beg your pardon your honour, but we didne think ye were real! I’ll run and fetch Maccus…. er, the greve, that is. Please wait here.’

The guard returned soon enough with a thin, middle-aged man with a square head. The man had a slight limp, but walked very quickly in spite of this. He face was creased with what looked like concern, and he rubbed his hands together anxiously. This was Maccus Greve. He introduced himself as the steward and commented on the lateness of their arrival. Maccus then turned and led the way across the causeway and into the bailey of the castle.

There were several stone and timber buildings inside, including what were obviously workshops and a smithy. A pair of men worked nearby on shoeing a horse. A large building across the parade ground, obviously the hall, loomed over the others and dominated the space. A crowd of people in bright clothes could be seen standing about in front of it. Maccus looked nervously about as if deciding where to go, and then led Medigas and the others to the left behind one of the smaller buildings and away from the hall. They stopped at an empty hut on the south side of the bailey and Maccus ushered them inside. He seemed intent on not letting the small group be seen. Maccus then closed the door partially behind them.

MACCUS: ‘Lord Uchtred is not happy. You have taken a very long time to come!’ The summons was issued two weeks ago!’
MEDIGAS: ‘Yet we only received it yesterday. I came as quickly as I could. It seems your messenger was unable to find our settlement and left the message instead with someone in Trevercarcou. That man took ill and did not bring it to us until yesterday. But we are here now. Do you know why we are summoned?’
MACCUS: ’Yes, but…oh, it is best if you hear it from Lord Uchtred himself. But you have to wait!

Maccus peered out into the courtyard, then turned his attention back to Medigas.

MEDIGAS: ‘Is there some problem in the courtyard?’
MACCUS: ‘Problem? No… no. Just… I’ll be back in a moment.’

Maccus rushed out them, pushing the door closed behind him. Medigas peered through the crack and could see Maccus scuttle off to the right. A few moments later, they could seem him scurry toward the crowd of people in front of the hall from another direction.

UGO: ‘Master, what is the problem?’
MEDIGAS: ‘I don’t think there is any problem, Ugo. I simply think that we are not meant to be seen by somebody – or they are not meant to be seen by us. It is much like Firenze in that regard.’
UGO: ‘I be ready for trouble, master.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Be ready, but worry not.’

Soon a younger man separated from the group and came striding confidently in their direction. With no pretence of stealth, he walked right up to hut they stood in and entered. He introduced himself as Nicol Dorward and claimed to be the kings door keeper, which Medigas took to mean ‘bodyguard’. He explained that he would escort the mage and his men during their stay at the castle, which Medigas took to mean ‘ensure the people from Ken Muir kept out of trouble’. He also explained that the King would see them soon but was currently occupied with seeing off his devout wife, Gunhulda of Allerdale, and chancellor, Brother Fearchar, who were going to ride down to the priory, which Medigas took to mean ‘the King will not see the mage until his busybody wife and confessor are good and gone from the castle grounds.’

Soon enough an elegantly dressed woman and a black-robed priest mounted up on a pair of stout nags and rode out across the causeway. The crowd of nobles and courtiers watched anxiously until they were out of site and then visibly relaxed. Nicol took this as his cue and led the mage and his companions out to meet Lord Uchtred. As they walked, Nicol pointed out the people in the crowd:

NICOL DORWARD: ‘That, of course, is Lord Uchtred in the centre. The tall, grey-haired man to his right is Sir Gospatrick fitz Orm of Workington, Lord of Culwen and an old friend of the kings. The blond-haired man beside him with the strong arms is his son, Gilbert fitz Gospatrick. Next to Gilbert stands Lochlann filius Uchtred, Uchtred’s son and heir. The grey-beard to the left of the king is Gillemore Albanach, the warden of Galloway and, dare I say it, spy for King William Garbh of Scotland. To the right of him are Uchtred mac Douall, Lord of Twignam, and his son Fergus mac Uchtred. Behind those two stands Gilbothyn mac Gillespoc of Botel and Gillecatfar, Uchtred’s foster brother and chamberlain. The tall thin man with the long nose standing behind Lochlann is Alexander Crokeshank, the keeper of the king’s hounds. And of course, you met Maccus Greve, the steward of Castle Fergus, already. Here, now… let me introduce you.’

As they approached within a few yards of the king Nicol strode forward, bowed informally to Uchtred, and gestured toward Medigas. The King stood with his arms crossed, a steely expression in his eyes.

NICOL: ‘My Lord, these are the representatives from Ken Muir. This man here is Magister Medigas.’
MEDIGAS: (bowing) ‘Medigas of Florence, at your service.’
UCHTRED: (scowling) ‘Ach – yes, I remember you. You’re late! I sent a summons two weeks ago! I’m not accustomed to being held up by the very men who are meant to serve me.’
MEDIGAS: (unflustered) ‘Sadly, the summons reached us only yesterday. It seems your messenger went astray.’
UCHTRED: (turning to Maccus) ‘What? How did this happen? That boy should be flogged!’
MEDIGAS: ‘My pardon, but the dense woods around Ken Muir are very wild and often lead travellers astray. No doubt it is not the lad’s fault.’
UCHTRED: ‘Dense Woods? Well cut them down! I’ll not have my servants getting lost everytime I need something!’
MEDIGAS: (taken by surprise at the suggestion) ‘Ahh….we have not the manpower for that…
UCHTRED: ’I’ll arrange something, then. MACCUS?! Where are you?’
MEDIGAS: ‘…but perhaps I might suggest a quicker method?’
UCHTRED: ‘Quicker? What is it?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Perhaps an agent of ours could be left here who could reach us quickly. Then, when you have need of one of us that person, that messenger could reach us quickly, efficiently, and most important,…’ (Medigas glanced after the departing Queen for effect) ‘…discretely.’
UCHTRED: ‘Hmmm. An exchange of servants, then. This idea does have merit. I rather think the forest could provide some much needed wood for ships, but it will take time to arrange and remove, and an exchange of servants would be most expedient. I will consider it.’
MEDIGAS: ‘It could be done that way, or…’

Medigas paused, then, and uttered a few strange words under his breath, flicking his wrist as he did so. [GM Note: In effect, he cast a simple spontaneous Creo Mentem spell to place his last few words directly into them mind of Uchtred.]

MEDIGAS: ‘…we could do it this way!’

At the first sign of witchcraft, however, Nicol Dorward sprang forth and grabbed a hold of Medigas’ arm, twisting it behind the mage!
Ugo, ready for trouble, sprang forward himself and tried to grab Nicol, but Nicol was able to block the grab with his other arm. Gospatrick and the rest of Uchtred’s lords and servants drew their swords and stepped forward to point them at the four men from Ken Muir. The two grogs, Corwynn and Guillaume, both caught by surprise at the sudden turn of events, stood stock still. The tension was interrupted by Uchtred himself.

UCHTRED: (shouting) ‘HOLD!!’ (then to Medigas, growling) ’There’s no need for market pranks here. If you’re going to serve me, serve me openly.

Silence followed, until it was broken by Ugo of all people.
UGO: (to Nicol) ‘Take your hands off the magister, ser.’
NICOL: ‘(scowling at the Ken Muir crew) ’And you lot watch whose house you’re in. I’ll not have this kind of behaviour again.’
GUILLAUME: (to Ugo) ‘The monsieur has a point. We should not forget that we are here so serve the King. Please let go of the Door Ward, Ugo.’
Ugo let go of Nicol, who in turn let go of Medigas Magus. All stood for a moment, looking uncomfortably at one another, until the silence was broken by a new voice.

GOSPATRICK: (impatiently) ‘My lord, please! Can we get on with the important matters.’
UCHTRED: (reminded of his business) ‘Yes, devil take you Gospatrick, I’m getting to it! Look here Medigas, this is all very well and fine but we have a pressing issue that must needs be taken care of immediately. Let us retire into the hall and some semblance of privacy.’

Uchtred turned and led the way into the laigh hall, followed by Nicol, Medigas, the grogs, and Uchtred’s servants and courtiers. Uchtred made his way to the head of the hall where a large chair sat behind wide table. Uchtred sat in this chair, flanked on one side by Gillemore Albanach, the Scottish King’s warden, and Uchtred’s son Lachlan. On the other side sat Sir Gospatrick fitz Orm and his son Gilbert. The rest of the men, including those from Ken Muir, arranged themselves at several long tables placed perpendicular to the main table, and waited for Uchtred to speak.

II – THE TALE OF SIR GOSPATRICK FITZ ORM

UCHTRED: (speaking to the hall) ‘This here is my old and good friend Sir Gospatrick fitz Orm.’
GOSPATRICK: (impatiently) ‘Never mind all that, they all know who I am! Is this the man you asked here to help us?’
UCHTRED: (somewhat uncomfortably) ‘Yes. Sir Hugh has assured me that they have some unusual talents, though their methods be unorthodox.’
GOSPATRICK: ‘Well, they better had after all this wait.’
UCHTRED: (growling) ‘We may be old friends, but don’t forget who’s lord around here. Just tell them your story and let’s get on with it.’
GOSPATRCK: (addressing the hall) ‘I was recently at our lands in Cumberland with my son, Gilbert, here, where I my main estates near Appleby. We came over by boat about two and a half weeks ago – a rough voyage made worse by the grumbling of my men at having to lug around that great big trunk of my son Gilbert, here…. ’
UCHTRED: ’Get on with it!’
GOSPATRICK: ‘We came my my lands at Culwen, where my other son, Thomas, looks after things when I cannot be there. Upon our arrival, I immediately sent word to Lord Uchtred that he might come and visit us and together we might beat the bounds of out territory. Soon enough Uchtred, young Lachlann here, Master Crokeshank, and a few others came and we did indeed beat the bounds together, along with my sons Gilbert and Thomas. For some reason, my son Thomas invited his newly acquired and most disrespectful harper, Rath mac Suibhne, to accompany ourselves. Naturally, as we were beating the bounds, we came to the coast and followed along it. I know not if you’ve been to our lands, but our share of coastline has many good sized cliffs, punctuated here and there by a number of good-sized coves.’
GOSPATRICK:(continuing) ‘Well, anyway, when we came upon one of these coves – a particularly large one – Lord Uchtred here asked just how deep it went. An argument broke out when Thomas said it extended no deeper that 120 yards and his ludicrous harper insisted it went much deeper – in fact, a mile deep at least, he insisted! Well, I know not how long Rath has been in the employ of my son Thomas, but they behaved like an old married couple. They were at each other’s throats, arguing over trivialities. Now, normally I can’t abide disrespectful people, let alone harpers, so I became angry myself and told the harper to prove it! I said ‘If you think this cove is a mile deep, let’s see some proof or I’ll put you in stocks for a braggart!’
GOSPATRICK: (continuing) ‘To this, Rath mac Suibhne, his face red with anger, produced a set of pipes from somewhere on is person and said he would gladly do so. ’Thomas and I,’ he said, ‘will go into this cove together and I will play these pipes most loudly. You will be able to hear them on the surface and can follow out progress into the cove! Then you will see for yourself just how deep the cove is!’ Well, it seemed like a reasonable solution, so long as the pipes were loud (which they were) and all were convinced of this plan. Uchtred here even offered the use of one of his best dogs to accompany the pair, and Master Crokeshank picked his favourite hound, Camhanaich, to accompany them.
GOSPATRICK: (continuing) ‘And so they went down, the two of them and the dog, into the cove. Rath started to play the pipes and we could hear them loudly, so we followed. We walked across the grass inland. We went 100 yards and we could year the pipes. 120 yards and we could still hear the pipes. Two hundred, three hundred yards, we could hear the pipes. WELL, DAMN-IT! WE FOLLOWED THE SOUND OF THOSE PIPES THREE AND A HALF MILES, NEARLY TO FAIRGARVE KIRK BEFORE THEY STOPPED!’
Gospatrick slammed his fist down on the table for emphasis, then paused before finishing.
GOSPATRICK: ‘And I haven’t seen my son since.’ He finished lamely, choking back a swallow.

This revelation was met with stunned silence from the crowd. Medigas felt compelled to say something, but was uncertain as to what.

GOSPATRICK: (finishing his tale) ‘Well, of course we went back to the mouth of the cove expecting them to return. I sent a few men down there, and they reported that the cove was no deeper than one hundred and twenty yards! Those men are still there, waiting lest my son return. As a father, I am at wit’s end!’
UCHTRED: (interjecting) ‘And he has been here for the last two weeks, driving me crazy! Where have you people from Ken Muir you been!?’
MEDIGAS: (directing the conversation away from his tardiness again) ‘Do you happen to have any personal effects of Thomas’?’
GOSPATRICK: ‘No. Though there may be something at Culwen. Why do you ask? Do you really think there is something you can do?’
MEDIGAS: ‘There just might be, but I will need to investigate this cove and I will need a personal effect belonging to your son. And maybe also something belonging to his harper.’
GOSPATRICK: ‘We will see what we can find at Culwen, and can certainly show you the cove. I have not so far thought to browse their personal effects. When will you be ready to depart?’
MEDIGAS: ‘I am ready now.’
GOSPATRICK: (standing) Excellent!’
UCHTRED: (also standing and holding out his arms) ‘WAIT! We have a repast prepared! I insist you cannot go on empty stomachs!’

IIIGROGS AND PROVENDER

As the final preparation for the meal were being made, Uchtred offered to show Medigas around Castle Fergus and took him off on a tour with the rest of the courtiers. The three grogs, their social standing somewhat uncertain, were left to their own devices. They sat for a few moments in the hall while the servants started to wash down the tables, deciding how best to amuse themselves. Guillaume, knowing that Corwynn was gullible and Ugo not very bright, sought to engage them in a little gambling, but Ugo’s eye soon turned toward the girls scurrying back and forth between the hall and the kitchen.

He uttered a few crooning words at two of the girls as they passed by, and was encouraged by their shy smiles. When they retreated bashfully back toward the kitchen Ugo stood up to follow them. Guillaume followed, too, hoping to cash in by association with the charismatic Italian. Corwynn followed at some distance behind, thinking vaguely that he needed to keep the other two out of trouble.

They arrived at the kitchen to see that it was bustling with frantic activity. The last of the bread was being pulled from the oven on a pele, garnishes were being chopped and precious salt sprinkled, and two men were wrestling with a vat in one corner. The two girls that Ugo had been following were gathering up clay cups to carry back to the hall. Oblivious to the urgency of the preparations of the people in the kitchen, Ugo walked right up to the taller of the two girls, the dark-haired Sara, and offered to help her carry her cups. Sara twittered a little laugh and started to hand some of the cups to Ugo. The other girl, brown-haired Elen, hissed a warning under her breath that Sara ignored. Ugo, in an effort to deflect the sister, suggested that she might like the Norman. Guillaume, however, had not had the courage to enter the kitchen and was mooning about near the door.

Ugo managed to chat long enough to learn that the girls were daughters of Gillechrist mac Gilwinin, one clan chiefs of the Glen Ken, but his attempts at wooing were soon put to a halt by the large chief of the kitchen. The man strode over and took the cups from Ugo’s arms and chased both him and Guillaume away.

Out in the courtyard, the ever-enthusiastic Corwynn was drawn to where several men stood about grooming horses. Ken Muir did not have any horses itself, so the prospect of seeing a destrier always excited the young Grog. He dragged both Ugo and Guillaume over with him to speak to the men, who he assumed were squires. Ugo and Guillaume watched patiently for a while as Corwynn buzzed around like an excited bee, asking a hundred questions of the men with the horse. Ugo decided to have some fun with the naive young man by playing on his strange belief that he would one day become a knight.

UGO: ‘Hey, Corwynn, what is your family crest? You never showed us your shield before’
CORWYNN: (scowling) ’I’m not a knight yet, you know!’
UGO: (laughing meanly) ‘Well, this would be good place to learn.’

Corwynn purposely avoided the baiting (he was used to it) and so missed that Medigas and the tour group were now returning to the hall. It seemed that the midday meal was now being served. Guillaume and Ugo turned to follow the others into the hall, leaving Corwynn behind. By the time Corwynn realized it was time to go, everyone else had already entered the hall. Leaving the men with the horse reluctantly behind, he began to cross the courtyard when his attention was drawn to another man leaning discretely against the side of one of the buildings. The man hissed at him, calling him over. Corwynn could see as he approached that it was none other than Gilbert fitz Gospatrick, son of the lord of Culwen.

GILBERT: ’You’re one of the lads from Ken Muir, aren’t you?’
CORWYNN: ‘Yes sir.’
GILBERT: ‘You have a ’Thomas’ there at Ken Muir, is that right? Thomas fitz Roy?’
CORWYNN: ‘Yes sir.’
GILBERT: ‘Well, I have a message for this Thomas. Can I trust you to deliver it for me? It’s very important!’
CORWYNN: (accepting a small satchel which seemed to have a scroll inside) ‘Yes sir, you can!’
GILBERT: ‘Thomas is going to have a visitor, in fact a cousin, in the near future. I need you to take this to him so that he knows this cousin is coming. And give this to Thomas as well…’
He handed Corwynn a small pouch which clinked. Corwynn’s eyes widened.
GILBERT: ‘Can I trust you to do this?’
CORWYNN: ‘Yes, of course. I am a loyal servant of Ken Muir!’
GILBERT: ‘Good. There is much to be gained from following what I’m about to tell you, Do you understand? The contents of these pouches will be of great interest to Thomas, and furthermore there will be some personal benefit to yourself as well, not the least this…’
Gilbert then slipped two small bits of metal into Corwynn’s palm. Corwynn did not recognize what they were (two English farthings) but he knew they were valuable.
GILBERT: ‘Now, keep this to yourself! Tell no one but Thomas himself, understand? Deliver it as quickly as you can manage, but discretely! Don’t blow your cover! And if you should perform this service well, I’ll be sure to put in a good word with the knights!’
Gilbert winked knowingly at this, for he had watched Corwynn’s interaction with the squires and had correctly judged his character.
CORWYNN: ‘Y….Yes sir!!’
GILBERT: ‘Good. Now, wait here a few minutes before coming into the hall. That way we won’t be seen together. Understood?’
CORWYNN: ‘Yes sir.’

By the time Corwynn entered the hall everyone else was already seated. At the head table sat Uchtred, his son Lochlann, the Scottish warden Gillemore Albanach, Gospatrick fitz Orm and his son Gilbert, and the other gaelic lords. Below this were arranged several other tables in descending rank. Magister Medigas could be seen in the middle of the hall, seated with several landless knights. Guillaume and Ugo were right at the back of the hall at the very last table and they had saved a seat for Corwynn. A blackened trencher of bread sat on the table in his place and dishes were being passed around so that the food could be spooned onto it. He was given a mug of small beer.

During the meal Ugo continued to direct his attentions to the girl Sara. One of the other men at the table warned him to be wary of the girl’s brother, Paitin mac Gillechrist, who sat a a nearby table and was very protective. After the meal, when Ugo had a chance, he went over to the table where this fellow Paitin sat and plopped himself down next to him and spent a good fifteen or so minutes trying to butter him up. This largely worked, but was somewhat tempered by Ugo’s description of life at Ken Muir as being limited to ‘carrying heavy books around and picking mushrooms and herbs’. He further confused the man by telling him that ‘Sir Corwynn’ was the knight who held Ken Muir and in the end left a mixed impression.

Through the dinner a few other rumours were heard. There was some talk of Sir Hugh de Morville of Westmorland, the English knight who was being sought after for having killed Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. It turned out that Gospatrick fitz Orm, apart from being upset by the disappearance of his son, was also annoyed at being delayed in his return home to Appleby where he was the sheriff. He felt that since Hugh de Morville also had large estates at Appleby, he might well be headed there and Gospatrick wanted to get back in order to convince him to turn himself in.

There was also some talk of Uchtred’s plan to improve the safety of the pilgrimage route to Whitherne by protecting the road. The impetus behind this was an order from the Scottish King, William Garbh, that Scottish monks and pilgrims should not be harmed while travelling through Galloway, and the warden Gillemore Albanach was pushing for this. Hence the building of the new motte at Dalri and another at Dun Uchtred. Many people seemed to assume that Ken Muir was part of the same initiative, since it lay close to the route. This was the first that Medigas had heard of it, and he was not quite sure what to think of the prospect of monks and pilgrims coming regularly by Ken Muir, or whether they would be expected to provide hospitality.

Lastly, there was some discussion of Mael Coluim mac Gillebrigte, Uchtred’s nephew and heir apparent in western Galloway. It seems the young man was something of a brute. Tales of his beating servants and villagers abounded.

When the meal was over, Gospatrick was anxious to leave and Uchtred anxious to the people of Ken Muir gone before Gunhulda and Brother Fearchar returned. And so it was that without delay Gospratrick, Gilbert, Lochlann, Medigas, and all of their assorted men-at-arms departed for the lands of Culwen which lay several hours march to the east.

IV – CULWEN

The route to Culwen took them north, through the crossroads at Cheleton, then east past the loch at Caer Llyn Wark, on to Botel, and then across the river Urr, south past Richhyrn and finally to Culwen. Most of Culwen consisted of rolling farmland perched between the coastal cliffs to the south and the forest clad hills to the north. The motte itself lay in a low-lying dell in the centre of the estate. It was modest, as mottes go, with a broad but low bailey attached. The vill of Culwen and its church sat nearby to the west.

Image copyright Mick Garratt - http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2040708
THE CULWEN COAST AS SEEN TODAY

The travellers arrived around dusk. The air was gloomy with drizzle. Medigas briefly considered taking advantage of this magical time to visit the cave, but was still fatigued from the voice spell he had cast earlier in the day, and the three grogs were none to anxious to brave the cliffs at night in the rain. So Medigas decided to spend the night gathering torches and other supplies. They also reviewed the personal chambers of Thomas fitz Gospatrick and Rath mac Suibhne, looking for personal effects that might allow Medigas to locate them.

Ugo told a tale to the other grogs of mythical beings known as sirens on the Mediterranean coast that could lure men to their death by song, and thought it was a good idea for everyone to bring something to plug their ears, so they added some candles to their list of supplies. Medigas was sceptical of this notion, but since it calmed the nerves of his men he let it go.

Under Sir Gospatrick’s supervision they looked through Sir Thomas’ chamber for a personal item and found a comb that had belonged to him, a gift from his mother, Egelina d’Engaine. Sir Gospatrick allowed them to take it for the nonce provided they swore to return it after Thomas was found.

A similar review of Rath mac Suibhne’s chamber, however, revealed that it was quite empty of such items. Either the harper owned nothing more that what he carried on his person, or he had taken pains to clean out his room before leaving. To Medigas this suggested that the harper had pre-meditated the events to come. He began to suspect an abduction, rather than a disappearance.

Lastly, they were shown to the the kennel where, amidst all the other fine dogs that belonged to Sir Gospatrick, there was one skinny and simpering bitch with dusky grey colouring who cowered in a corner by herself. Sir Gospatrick confirmed that this was indeed Uchtred’s favourite dog, Camhanaich. She had been found wandering in the woods a day after the disappearance of the two men and would now no longer go anywhere near the entrance to that cave. Medigas knelt down and tried to calm the cowering dog by casting a spontaneous calming spell and speaking soothingly to it. With that, the dog calmed and could at least be convinced to eat, but still could never again be coaxed to go near the cave.

Investigations done, they settled down for the night. Medigas was permitted to use Rath mac Suibhne’s vacant room while beds for the three grogs were set up in the hall.

V – THE PIPER’S COVE

The Piper's Cove: http://www.dgttl.co.uk/index.php?a=wordsearch&s=item&key=Wczo4OiJkdW1mcmllcyI7&pg=2292

They woke in the very early hours and walked to the Piper’s Cove in the dark. It took them about an hour to get there. The cove itself lay at the bottom of some steep cliffs. A rough trail meandered its long way down to the pebbly beach. One then had to climb up again from there on a steep scree to reach the dark, triangular mouth of the cave itself. Medigas sent the grogs on ahead down the trail while he remained on the cliff above with Sir Gospatrick and Sir Gilbert.

In the gloomy pre-dawn light, Medigas surveyed the scene. When the grogs were out of sight on the trail, he distracted the two knights who stood beside him by pointing to the west and asked them what was out there, then he quickly cast the spell known as Rise of the Feathery Body upon himself and stepped off the edge of the cliff. The spell allowed him to float down to the mouth of the cave, where he discovered the the two slumbering guards who had been posted to watch the mouth of the cave. From up above he could hear the concerned voice of Sir Gospatrick raised in alarum:

GOSPATRCIK: (speaking to his son atop the cliff) ‘Good God, he’s buggered off!’
MEDIGAS: (calling up to the knights, and startling the two sleeping guards awake in the process) ‘Worry not, Sir Gospatrick! I am down here!’
GOSPATRCIK: (calling down) ‘Heavens above, man! Are you alright? You haven’t broken a leg, have you? Did you lose your footing?’
MEDIGAS: (shouting to Sir Gospatrick) ‘In a sense, yes, but worry not – I’m quite alright.’
Medigas then turned to the now-awake guards and asked ‘Would one of you good men have a torch?’
GUARD: (trying to hide his surprise) ‘Aye, but tweren’t no use, sir. The cave only goes in one hundred and twenty paces.’

With torch in hand, Medigas awaited for the arrival of the three Grogs who at last scrambled up the scree slope. They were quite surprised to see Medigas standing there waiting for them with a torch in hand, but Medigas offered no explanation.

Ugo tried to lead the way into the cave, but kept slipping back down the scree. It was Corwynn who climbed up, carrying a rope, which he tied off and then played out to allow the others to climb up. ‘Very good, Corwynn. You will be a knight yet’ commented Ugo condescendingly. Ugo then led the way into the cave, helping to steady Medigas who followed close behind. Guillaume also lit a torch and suggested that the char from the third torch be used to mark their trail, should they need it.

They proceeded into the cave. The floor and walls were very uneven and there was much scrambling to be done. At one time Medigas had to pass his torch to Ugo to hold onto, and the moment the torch left his hand the light went out. The instant Medigas too it back again from Ugo, the light came back again, clear and yellow. Ugo, used to such tricks, said nothing.

When they had gone in about 60 yards, a sweet and flowery scent came to them, seemingly from deeper in the cave. The torches seemed to burn brighter for the colour of the rocks seemed more vivid. Eventually the cave widened to admit two people abreast and the floor flattened out. In the middle of the floor was a round hole, about two-feet in diameter. Holding a torch above the opening revealed little except that it went straight down into inky blackness.

Ignoring the hole for the moment, they proceeded another 6o yards or so into the cave. The amount of rocks on the floor of the cave grew less and less until the floor became smooth. The cave sloped up and became narrower and narrower until they saw a bright area ahead. Approaching, they found that light was coming down from a small crack in the roof of a cave. Some vine seeds must have fallen down through the hole, for a solid mass of green vine was now growing up through it. This seemed to be the end of the cave. Guillaume, however, separated some of the vines and found that the cave continued into darkness on the other side. Before proceeding, however, they decided to go back and explore the hole in the floor.

Guillaume was lowered into the hole by rope with a torch in hand. Medigas peered down from above while Ugo and Corwynn played out the rope. The walls of the hole remained smooth and it continued straight down for nearly the entire length of the rope. Looking down, Guillaume could see his own torchlight reflected back to him from a smooth surface of inky-black water. He reached down to scoop up a bit and tasted it. It was fresh. And yet, by Guillaume’s estimation, the hole was deep enough and close enough to the shore that he expected salt water. They pulled him back up and he reported his findings. Medigas suspected that the cave was not exactly what it seemed.

Next they proceeded past the vines and deeper into the cave. The floor descended again and they travelled again for quite some time (it was difficult for them to gauge exactly how far – Guillaume had been counting paces but had long since lost his count and given up). Eventually they began to see bones strewn about on the floor of the cave. They were old and had clearly been chewed to varying degrees. Medigas identified a human femur, and Corwynn sussed that the remaining bones were those of cow, sheep, and deer.

UGO: ‘Boss, is it time for the ear plugs yet?’
MEDIGAS: ‘No, Ugo. Not yet. How will you be able to hear if something dangerous lives in the cave?’
GUILLAUME: ‘Maybe we draw our weapons, though, no?’
UGO: ‘Yeah.’

They went another fifteen minutes or so before the air changed.

UGO: ‘Ugh, the sweet smell is gone. Rotting meat smell. Ugh.’

Medigas reached down as picked up a fist sized piece of stone off the ground, muttering some words under his breath as he did so. Ugo and Corwynn could now hear a snuffling and clattering sound echoing through the cave, though nobody was moving. It seemed to be coming from behind them – from where they had already been!

UGO: ‘Boss, you want I should go back and look? Noise from behind and stink from in front!’

Ugo moved to the back of the group, facing toward where they had come from and holding his sword forward. Guillaume stood beside Ugo with a torch in one hand and sword in the other. Corwynn stood behind them, holding his quarterstaff in two hands but realizing he hadn’t enough room to swing it properly in the cave. Medigas stood at the back of the group with his magically prepared rock in hand.

The grunting and clattering of stones became louder as something approached from the darkness.

Suddenly the massive shape of a big, black, bear formed out of the darkness of the cave and charged in a lumbering fashion toward them! It stopped just short of where Ugo stood and bared its teeth, letting out a loud roar! The three grogs stood firm in the face of this fearsome sight, but Medigas held an unreasonable fear of bears and let out a shriek! He threw his magically ensorcelled stone in a panic and then ran desperately deeper into the cave. The grogs saw something fly over their shoulders and burst into a million shards in front of them. The bear roared in response! The whimpers of the mage disappeared down the tunnel behind them, leaving the three grogs to face the fearsome bear alone.

Ugo, uncertain where his loyalties lay, glanced after the departing mage and then looked at his two companions. ‘BOSS?! WHERE YOU GOING?’ he called into the darkness.

END SESSION

GM NOTES:

  • This adventure is inspired by the legend behind ‘The Piper’s Cove’, an actual cove and cave on the Colvend Coast of Galloway. The tale reported in Highways and Byways in Galloway and Carrick records merely that a bag-piper went in to explore the cave and found it nearly four-miles deep before his pipes stopped and the piper was never seen again. The actual depth of the cave, records the author Reverend Dick, is only 120 yards. Note that in Galloway, the word ‘cove’ can refer to either a ‘cove’ or a ‘cave’, and quite often the two are found together, as is the case at the Piper’s Cove. There are similar tales told of caves on other parts of the coast, and Galloway Gossip records one such tale from the Rhinns district, adding the element of the dog.
  • Bagpipes are not recorded in Galloway or Scotland at this time. The pipes that Rath mac Suibhne used were pan pipes.
  • The dog’s name, Camhanaich, is gaelic for ‘Twilight’ referring to the colour of her fur. ‘Rath mac Suibhne’ translates literally as ‘Grace, son of the pleasant man’ – a somewhat fanciful name but not inappropriate for a harper.

Adventure Log

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Raibert Caird and the Normans
An Investigative Interlude

I – THE TRADE

So it was mentioned at the summer council of A.D. 1171 that Medigas of Florence had recently been approached by the peddler, Raibert Caird, with an interesting proposition. Raibert had asked him if he had an alchemical book that he might trade, and in exchange Raibert would offer him a copy of the Bestiary said to be from Aberdeen. When Medigas asked just who in Galloway might be interested in an alchemical book apart from a magus, Raibert simply said that he had been approached by a youth while in Monygof.

Medigas was interested in getting a hold of a copy of this Aberdeen Bestiary, but he was even more interested in learning who it was in the Monygof area who was interested in an alchemical book to begin with. So he decided to send his companion Éovan Auditore da Firenze to investigate, and of all the companions he could select to accompany him, Éovan picked Brother Erlend Svensson, a large but learned monk and infirmerer who frequented Ken Muir. Éovan’s plan was to travel posing as a monk and a junior scoloc; Éovan never did anything openly if he could help it.

But there was one knot in this thread of a plan: Ken Muir did not own any alchemical books to offer in trade. Medigas, being an honest fellow, did not much like the idea of sending Éovan without at least something to offer the peddler, even if it was not what Raibert had asked for, so he instructed Éovan to offer a copy of their medical text, instead. If it came down to it and the covenant did indeed want to go through with the trade, he would personally take the time to copy out their one medical text in order to complete the trade. It would take time to do this, but it was pretty much all they could offer.

The next day Medigas himself departed from Ken Muir with a group of grogs to attend to Lord Uchtred, their benefactor, at Castle Fergus. Éovan and Brother Erlend decided to accompany them as far as the toun of Kirkcudbright, where they had heard the peddler Raibert Caird lived.

II – RAIBERT CAIRD

Later that day Medigas the mage, his servants and companions strode southward along the path on the east side of the River Dee.

Éovan’s plan for dealing with the peddler Raibert Caird was simple: In order to preserve their anonymity, they decided to borrow the grog Corwynn mac Murchan and send him into town to make the first contact with Raibert Caird. The plan was to have Corwynn try to broker a deal with Caird for the book, and then when Caird ran off to speak the the mysterious person who was requesting an alchemy book, Éovan and Erlend could follow discretely, pretending to be itinerant monks, and suss out who he was.

As they approached the outskirts of Kirkcudbright, however, Erlend already began to test the strength of thread in Éovan’s plan. He stopped outside a hovel where a cotter stood gardening and, before Éovan could say anything, he marched over and spoke to the man.

ERLEND: ‘Good man, do you happen to know of a Raibert Caird?’
COTTER: (looking nervously at the large monk) ‘Aye. He’s wha sold me my lantern.’
ERLEND: ‘And do you know if he lives here in Kirkcudbright?’
COTTER: (not sure what to make of the giant monk’s tiny voice) ‘Aye…’
ERLEND: ‘Oh, that is good news. Do you hear that, Éovan? Can you show us to his house, or give us directions?’
COTTER: (hesitating, then deciding not to risk making the large monk angry) ‘Aye, he lives in the third house from the harbour road, to the south of the market square.’
ERLEND: ‘I see. And can you describe him so we will know him when we meet him.’
COTTER: ‘Aye – his hair’s the colour of sand, and waves much like the sea. He’s a scot and has one of their coarse accents, like.’
ERLEND: ’I see. Thank you and god bless.

Erlend left the man and walked back over to where Éovan was frowning.

ÉOVAN: (speaking in his accented gaelic) ‘I don’t explain the word ‘incognito’, no? Our plan is to look and listen, but no to speak and to announce! Capito?’
ERLEND: ‘Oh, I see. You think I’ll give us away by asking for help, is that it? I don’t think he’ll think anything of my questions. He’ll probably forget me by noon.’
ÉOVAN: ‘No, he no forget! You a giant man with a soft voice!’
ERLEND: (somewhat offended) ‘Oh well. What’s done is done, anyway.’

Erlend then gave Corwynn the description of the man they were looking for and directions to his house.
Corwynn then left immediately and fairly ran into town as he didn’t want to delay his mission with Medigas any longer than was necessary.

The toun was a bustling place and as grand a settlement as Corwynn have ever seen. Several large ships bobbed in the harbour and smaller boats were pulled up on the muddy bank of the river. The triangular town square was lined with thatch-roofed houses, a tavern, the tolbooth, and a small chapel dedicated to Saint Cuthbert.

Corwynn rushed through the square which, on this day, was alive with vendors selling everything from fish to fleece. He rushed to the house that the cotter had described and knocked on the door. There was no answer. He passerby if this was indeed Raibert’ Caird’s house, and the person acknowledged that it was, but that he suspected that Raibert was currently at the howf. Corwynn returned to the square and went straight to the tavern. From the outside it looked like a one-room affair with a wooden sign swaying in the breeze. The sign was painted with the image of a tonsured monk holding a mug in his hand and leaning on a large barrel. ‘The drunk monk?’ though Corwynn. Well, Kirkcudbright was known for its community of young scolocs.

Corwynn entered the tavern to find an assortment of people, but none that fit the description of Raibert. He wandered up to the bar and ordered a small beer, then asked if Raibert was about. The tavernkeeper said that he had been in a moment ago, but seemed to have left. When he was here, he had been speaking to two rather well-to-do looking men sitting at a table near the door. Corwynn approached the men, planning to ask them about Raibert, but when he approached he found he couldn’t understand them due to the foreign tongue they were speaking. He did, however, hear the name ‘Hugh de Morville’ spoken quite clearly by the man with the pointy face.

This was interesting, but Corwynn remembered he was in a rush. He spoke out loud to the room, asking ‘Has anyone here seen Raibert Caird? Does anyone know where he went?’ The two foreigners did not look at him, but another man pointed silently at the front door, indicating that Raibert had already left.

Corwynn ran outside and asked one of the local vegetable sellers in the square about Raibert, and she pointed toward the riverbank where the boats were moored. He rushed over and, surveying the harbour, noticed several men busily unloading a boat while a man with wavy, sandy-coloured hair watched and rubbed his hands together. Corwynn approached him.

CORWYNN: ‘Uh. Raibert Caird?’
RAIBERT: (brusquely) ‘Yes? What do you want?’
CORWYNN: ‘I come from Medigas?’
RAIBERT: ‘Where?’
CORWYNN: ‘Medigas. Uh. He’s… uh…. a learned man. He has a beard, wears spectacles and comes from…um… from across the sea. You asked him if he had a book? A book about alchemy?’
RAIBERT: ‘Ah, yes. A book on the arts of alchemy. Now I recall. What about him?’
CORWYNN: ‘He bid me to tell you that he has no book on alchemy, but would be willing to offer a book on the medical arts instead, of you should be interested.’

The men unloading the boat meanwhile spoke thickly to one another in a foreign tongue.

RAIBERT: ‘Medicine? Hmmm….maybe. Do you have it with you?’
CORWYNN: ‘Uh… no.’
RAIBERT: ‘When can I get it?’
CORWYNN: ‘Um….I’m not sure. A season?’
RAIBERT: ‘But you’re sure he has one?’
CORWYNN: ‘Yes. I’m sure. But he also said that if you insist on an alchemical book, he would pen what he knows and give that to you.’
RAIBERT: ‘I see. Very well.’
CORWYNN: ‘Medigas said that you had another book to offer in exchange, one about beasts.’
RAIBERT: ‘Yes, yes. I’m willing to wait for your books, and it will take me some time to lay my hands on the bestiary anyway, so that’s fine, just so long as we have a deal. What is your name?’
CORWYNN: ‘Corwynn mac Murchan from Ken Muir. Medigas instructed me to tell you he would be interested in other books, too, if you should have them, or will offer a finder’s fee for any deals which you negotiate.’
RAIBERT: ‘Ah, good. You said it would take a season for Medigas to produce his book? Then we will meet again in one season, and I will have the Bestiary at that time. Then I’ll be sure to alert you to any new books that I find. What kind of books is he most interested in, anyway?
CORWYNN: (uncertain, but trying to look smart) ‘Um…I think he would be interested in any books on ancient lore. Can you find one of those?’
RAIBERT: (winking) ‘I like to think I can find anything for anyone, for the right price!’
Raibert extended his hand to the grog, and Corwynn shook it.

Corwynn then returned to where the others were waiting outside of toun and reported everything that had happened to him. Then he accompanied Medigas and the others toward Castle Fergus.

IIITHE MONK’S REST

Éovan and Erlend then wandered into town, pretending to be itinerant scholar monks, and went straight for the inn which Corwynn had called ‘The Drunk Monk’ (but which was actually known locally as ‘The Monk’s Rest’ despite the fact that no monks had ever stayed there since the founding of St. Mary’s Isle Priory). They ordered a couple of beers and sat near to the two foreigners that Corwynn had mentioned and who were still speaking animatedly to each other. He tried to watch them discretely, figuring that if the two men were talking about Sir Hugh de Morville of Borg, then Thomas Magus, one of the principals of Ken Muir, might prize the information.

Both Erlend and Éovan listened closely, but neither could fully understand their speech. Éovan guessed they were speaking the Normand dialect, and also judged from their nice clothes that they might be knights. The one with the pointed face was trying, with some difficulty, to explain something to the one with the mean, round, face, while the second man looked on skeptically. The first man held up three fingers, and Éovan then made out the name of Hugh de Morville. The man dropped one finger, then said the name again. Then he dropped a second finger, and said the name again. Then he dropped his third finger, and spoke the name of Hugh de Morville one last time. Then he drew his finger across his throat to punctuate the statement. The round-faced man’s eyes widened, then narrowed again to a squint, and their voices dropped to a whisper.

ERLEND: ‘Perhaps they are knights looking for Sir Hugh de Morville of Westmorland on behalf of the King of England? They have that look about them.’
ÉOVAN: ‘Perhaps. Or perhaps they mean harm to Hugh de Morville of Borg. His lands are less than an hour from here, if one crosses the river by boat. Either way, we should probably report what we’ve seen here, and perhaps a bit more if we can learn more.

Éovan then left Erlend in the tavern with instructions to continue to watch the two knights while he himself wandered out into the town to scout around. He went to the harbour, but didn’t see anyone matching Raibert Caird’s description. He did see the small ship that Corwynn had reported, and the men unloading the contents of a skiff onto a tarp were there. Seeing little of interest, Éovan then went to the house that the cotters had said belonged to Raibert. There he found a gate leading into a close that led to the yard behind the house, and from that direction he heard the sound of someone cursing. Listening more closely, he hears someone say in gaelic ‘Will you stand still?! Damnation!’ This was followed by muttered cursing and then by a loud crash and the sound of metal clattering. ‘AAARGH!’ exclaimed the voice loudly.

Soon after a sandy-haired man stormed out of the front door of the house and marched off toward the toun square. Éovan followed him through the square and into the tavern, then watched as he approached the two knights. The peddler spoke to the knights for a moment and then all three of them departed out the back door of the tavern, which Erlend said led to both the garderobe and to the courtyard around which the private rooms could be found. They waited, and Raibert soon re-entered to main room of the tavern, looking somewhat shaken. He then left immediately through the front door again.

ERLEND: ‘So, Raibert knows these two, then?’
ÉOVAN: ‘Yes, so it seem to be.’
ERLEND: ‘Still, that doesn’t seem our concern….’
ÉOVAN: ‘Hmmmm….I am not sure. Let us take rooms here for the night. I have a plan.’

IV – A SNEAK AND A DRUNK

The two companions took one of the rooms at the inn, then spent the rest of the day either wandering about the toun, looking around, or in the tavern. After darkness fell, sometime between the hours of vespers and compline, Éovan stole away into the night, leaving big brother Erlend, by now somewhat drunk, by himself in the tavern.

Éovan slunk around to Raibert Caird’s house for the second time and listened at the door. He could hear the sound of snoring. He tried the door and found that it wasn’t locked, so he pried it open and crept inside. There were two rooms inside the house – the main living room and the bedroom. The earthen floor of both rooms was cluttered with boxes, bags, straps, articles of clothing, pieces of tin, and other assorted oddments. Éovan ignored these and crept into the bedroom and over to the straw bed that Caird was sleeping in. Then he snipped off a bit of the hair off the peddler’s head and slunk away as easily as he had entered. He closed the door behind himself and, after pausing to make sure he hadn’t been spotted, he made his way back to the inn.

Upon his return to the tavern Éovan peered in through the window to survey the scene before entering. Erlend still sitting as he had left him. The big monk held an empty mug in his hand and was mumbling away, still speaking to Éovan as if he had never left and was still sitting beside him. He seemed to be trying to convince his imaginary friend to consider taking up the cloth. Several of the people in the tavern were pointing in his direction snickering.

ERLEND: ‘No, it’s not so bad being a monk, you know. I really think you could do it. You get to read, and people give you stuff…’
TAVERN WENCH: ‘Er…can I get you another pint, master monk?’
ERLEND: ‘No, I don’t th…think I could drink another swig, th…thank you. We should be getting on, anyway, isn’t that right Éovan?’
The big monk made to stand up, but lost his balance and lurched forward heavily. He put his giant hand clumsily on the edge of the table to steady himself, but up-ended it and fell bodily to the floor with a heavy thud. The clay pot Erlend had been drinking fell beside him and broke into shards, while the table itself fell heavily to the floor, upside down behind him. The wench cried out in alarm and there was a mixture of concerned cooing and laughter from the other patrons. Éovan took this opportunity to slip back into the room. The wench tried to help him up but couldn’t lift the monk and implored for help from the other patrons, but Erlend waved them off. Éovan came over to help him up.

ERLEND: ‘Thank you, friend. I think it is time for bed, now.’
ÉOVAN: ‘Easy, brother Erlend, easy. The ale is good here, is it not?’
ERLEND: ‘Aye, we’ll have to bring a keg back with us to Ken Muir.’

Erlend smiled meekly at the tavernkeeper as Éovan led him off to their room. Back in the room, Éovan explained that he had gone over to Raibert Caird’s place so that he could get a snippet of hair. He had once overheard that Raderic or Medigas could employ their magic to listen to a distant conversation provided they had a personal connection to one of the participants. And with this lock of hair, they now had just such a connection to Raibert Caird. With luck, they might now overhear what he had to say to the mysterious purchaser of the alchemical book.

[GM NOTE: Because of this incident and his flaw ‘judged unfairly’ Brother Erlend gained a level-one reputation as a drunk in Kirkcudbright.]

V – THE MOTTE OF BORG

In the early hours of the morning Éovan was awoken by the sound of activity in the courtyard. The two Normans were saddling up their horses and preparing to leave. He followed them as they went and saw that they headed toward the harbour, and then followed the track by river toward the north of town.
Éovan then slipped back into town and past Raibert Caird’s place again. He could hear the sound of clanking and cursing from the back yard and the protest of a pack-pony. Raibert was clearly also getting ready to leave.

Éovan returned to the inn and, knowing Erlend’s reputation as a heavy sleeper, tried to wake him gently by sprinkling a little water on his face.

ERLEND: ‘Echhh, * cough *. Brrrrrr. Oh. Éovan. What did I do last night? I don’t remember anything.’
ÉOVAN: ’That’s what they all say. At least I managed to get the wenches outa here!’
ERLEND: (slightly shocked) ‘Noooo. Oh noooo.’
ÉOVAN: (laughing).
ELREND: ‘I have a pain in my side.’
ÉOVAN: ‘That would be from the table. You knock it a over. Anyway, I woke you because we must depart. The two Normans have left, and now I think Raibert Caird is leaving, too. I’d like to see where he’s going.’
ERLEND: ‘Very well. Give me some time to gather myself. I’m not my best in the mornings, you know.’

Less than an hour later they headed up the road, northward. They passed where the two Normans were still standing beside their horses. Now Raibert Caird was with them, holding the lead of a stout Galloway nag packed with goods. Éovan and Erlend continued on past them nonchalantly and proceeded up the road. When it because clear that Raibert and the two Normans, now travelling together, were coning up the road behind them, they paused to take a rest and allowed the three travellers to pass them by. The Norman with the pointy nose nodded to them as they passed. They allowed the Normans to get a small lead before taking to their feet again and following them.

They headed north to the first ford on the River Dee and crossed over, heading west. When the Normans and the peddler veered off toward Twignam, Erlend and Éovan decided to hurry on ahead to Borg, reasoning that the Normans would inevitable head there to speak to Sir Hugh de Morville of Borg.

When they arrived, they approached the gate of the bailey at Castle Borg and spoke to the soldier who stood at the gate.

ERLEND: ‘Hello. We come from Ken Muir. We’re monks.’
GUARD: ‘Eh wot? Ken Muir? Is that a place?’
ERLEND: ‘Yes, it’s a place on Loch Ken. You might know one of our colleagues, William of Furness? I believe he was employed here, once.’
GUARD: ‘Och, aye! William! And how de ye know hem?’
ERLEND: ‘Yes. He lives in our village.’
GUARD: ‘Och, is that where he’s gone. I thocht he was sent to babysit some ne’er-do-well nephew of good laird Hugh.’
ÉOVAN: ’He’s actually our commander.’
GUARD: ‘Eh? Our William? Commanding monks?!’
ERLEND: ‘Er, no. He means he commands the village militia.’
GUARD: ‘Oh, I see. Seems a step down. Anyway, what is it I can do for you brothers?’
ERLEND: ‘Well, we are merely passing by and requesting board from the castle.’
GUARD: ‘Oh, board is it? Aye, that’s a question for master Martin, that is. Martin de Kendall is the steward ‘ere. Well, come on it, then. No point standing out here in the dirt while we wait for an answer, is there? You might as well wait in the mess. What shall I say your names are?’
ERLEND: ’I’m brother Erlend Svensson.’
ÉOVAN: ‘Éovan.’
ERLEND: (giving Éovan a look) ‘Er, Novice Brother Éovan, that is.’

The guard left them at the mess hall in the bailey and turned to head up to the motte proper. Several other people were here and about, carrying out chores and what not. Eventually the guard came back and told them they could stay. He would arrange a private lodging for the two monks so they would not have to stay with the commoners. The guard arranged for them to have something eat (though Erlend himself abstained, his stomach not being quite up to it). Éovan tried to strike up a conversation with the guard.

ÉOVAN: (speaking in his Italian accent) ‘So, who is you commander?’
GUARD: ‘Yes, that’s right.’
ÉOVAN: ‘Eh – What?’
GUARD: ‘Hugh is our commander. Hugh de Morville, that is.’
ÉOVAN: ‘Yes. No, I mean who is a the commander of guard?’
GUARD: ‘Oh, that’d be Ercenbald. Ercenbald Armstrong.’
ÉOVAN: ‘I see. Is he around?’
GUARD: ‘Most likely. What do you need him for?’
ÉOVAN: ‘I would like to speaka with him.’
GUARD: ‘Oh, bloody… All right. Hey! Simon! Go and fetch his nibs, would ye.’
The young boy the guard was speaking to was all too happy to drop his scrub-brush and ran off to find Ercenbald Armstrong. He soon came back with a broad-faced, bald-headed, well-fed man with, yes, rather strong looking arms.

ARMSTRONG: (eyeing the brothers) ‘What can I do for you brothers?’
ÉOVAN: ’I’m told you are the man who trained William di Furness…?’
ARMSTRONG: ‘Aye. You know ’im do you?’
ÉOVAN: ‘He is now attempting to train me.’
ARMSTRONG: (skeptically) ‘Wot. Train you?! A monk!? That’s a laugh!’
ÉOVAN: ‘But I’m not a monk.’
AMRSTRONG: (getting more suspicious) ‘Not a monk? Who are you, then?’
ÉOVAN: ’I’m a messenger, travelling with Brother Erlend.’
ARMSTRONG: ‘Aye? And you have a message for me, then, I suppose? Is that it?’
ÉOVAN: ‘Yes. That is, we ’ave some news that might be of interest to you. We are on a mission to, eh, Monygof and we were recently passing througha Kirkcudbright. While we there, we overhear a pair of Normans talking about Sir High de Morville.’
ARMSTRONG: ‘Aye, well, Hugh is keeping some strange company these days. I don’t suppose you have a token do ye? To prove you are who ye say ye are? Else how can I trust ye.’
ÉOVAN: ‘No, I don’t. To be sure, you don’t now if you can trust me.’
ARMSTRONG: (sniffing loudly) ‘Well, that’s not too good now, is it. I’m supposed to be in charge of security around here, and yet here you come, dressed like a monk and yet not a monk, then saying you expect me to trust only that I can’t trust you. So what am I supposed to believe?’
ÉOVAN: ‘Well, you can believa that there are two Normans ina Kirkcudbright on their way here now and looking for Ser Hugh. Whether they mean ill or no, I cana say.’
ARMSTRONG: ‘So. Well. What are their names, then?’
ÉOVAN: ‘I cannot say, but they are travelling with a peddler named Raibert Caird.’
ARMSTRONG: ‘Raider Caird?! Mister sticky-fingers?! Cor…. Well, what do they look like?’
ÉOVAN: ‘One has a pointy face, brown hair and blue jerkin. The other a wide, round, mean face with black combed hair and a tan coloured jerkin. Each rides a large horse.’
ARMSTRONG: ‘Right. Well, I’ll keep me eye out for ‘em. What is you think I should be concerned about, exactly?’
ÉOVAN: ‘I feel you Ser Hugh should not be left alone with them.’
ARMSTRONG: ‘I see. Why’s that? Have they given you any cause for concern?’
ÉOVAN: ‘Call it instinct. It is my job at Ken Muir to keep my eyes open for anything unusual, and my sense is that something isn’t right, here. And also I donna think that Raibert Caird would be involved in anything innocent.’
ARMSTRONG: (nodding) ‘Fair Point. Fair point. Very well, if they show up at the gates I’ll keep a very close eye on them. Now – are you two really here for the evening? Is there anything else I should know about you two? (nodding to Erlend) I have to admit that if I was to guess which of you wasn’t a monk it would be ‘im!’
ERLEND: (surprised) ‘Oh! No! I am most definitely a monk!’
ÉOVAN: (nodding) ‘E is as he seems.’
ERLEND: ‘If we could perhaps rest for an hour, we’ll be on our way. There is admittedly no reason to stay now that we have delivered our message. I would perhaps like to say a prayer in the chapel’
ARMSTRONG: ‘Fair enough. I’ve got other duties, but Bertram here will see to anything you need, and show you out when you’re done.
ERLEND: ‘Thank you, sarjeant. You’re most kind.’

Erlend and Éovan left after an hour as they said they would. They felt that they had accomplished all they could for the time being and returned to Ken Muir. There would be much discussion upon their return speculating as to who exactly the Normans might be and what their mission was, and whether Raibert Caird might indeed be a useful contact, but these are matters for another chapter.

END SESSION

Adventure Log

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Summer Council, June 25, A.D. 1171
Second council of mages, 1171

On the morning of June 25, A.D. 1171, Thomas fitz Roy looked glumly across the table at Medigas of Florence.
THOMAS: ‘There are three mages in this covenant, so there should be three present at the council, should there not?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Raderic mac Gillolaine likely still sleeps. You know he hasn’t been well and likely spent much of the night coughing. Perhaps we should start without him. I have something brewing and would like to get back to it.’
THOMAS: ‘Yes, let us start.’ Thomas stood up and put his hand over his chest, winking at Medigas. ‘I, Thomas, have news for the council!’ he said, loudly and formally, as if addressing a room full of people.’
Medigas hid his smile behind his sleeve. Thomas continued in a normal voice.
THOMAS: ‘When last we met, you’ll recall that it was resolved that I would send a letter to my uncle, Hugh de Morville, to ask about the news of the kingdom and particularly about these Irish that are now attending the court of Gille Brigte mac Fergusa. I have now had a reply, not from my uncle directly, as he is away in the south, but from his factor, Martin de Kendall. You will recall the Italian traveller, Albrechtus Luteus who was at Gille Brigte’s court? Apparently, the man has left for the Rhinns in the west, and may be visiting Peter the boat-builder, Warlock of Innermessan. If true, this may warrant further investigation. I know little about this Peter the Boatbuilder. Do you?’

Medigas shook his head and looked like he was about to speak when there came the sound of feet shuffling on the steps outside. A second later the door creaked open and a breathless Raderic mac Gillolaine stumbled into the chamber. He looked pale as he walked over and leaned against the back of one of the chairs. After a fit of coughing, he addressed the other two magi.

RADERIC: ‘Forgive my disheveled state; the unholy water from Bogue that I tasted must have unbalanced my humours and made me frail. In my fever-dreams, I have heard voices (unbidden but not unwelcome) that spoke of Hugh de Morville – the other Hugh, not your uncle, Thomas – but the one who last week was accused of murdering the Archbishop of Canterbury so heinously. As we speak, King Henry’s men hunt de Morville across England and the Pope has excommunicated him. Now, I cannot be certain that my dreams were truth, but among the voices I heard, one was undoubtedly Prior William of Whitherne. He was instructing a delegation of monks to investigate the churches of Ken Valley, advising them on devilish signs of which they should be alert.’

Raderic paused again to cough, and then wiped his sleeve across his mouth before continuing.

RADERIC: Though I was too sick yesterday to contemplate these recent events, it occurred to me this morning (while leeching my throat) that our covenant might be in a precarious position. Hugh de Morville is a favoured courtier in London, so even if the Pope has threatened interdiction against England, King Henry might find Hugh innocent. Of course, the Pope would demand a scapegoat. Even now, Prior William is uttering warnings of the devilish sorcery which compelled de Morville to murder the Archbishop. Having been the target of a witch-hunt myself not long ago, I have seen firsthand how idle speculation can lead to mass hysteria. As practitioners of magic, we should remain cautious in our dealing with the church, and do our utmost to further relationships with our noble benefactors. Which brings me to my next point…

Raderic produced a tattered letter from his satchel.

RADERIC: ‘This message arrived during my morning ablutions, delivered by a peasant from Trevercarcou. As it happens, Uchtred mac Fergusa dispatched a messenger to Ken Muir nearly a fortnight ago, but the poor man couldn’t find our hidden vill, so he left his errand with the local villagers. Uchtred has requested a mage to visit Kirkcudbright as soon as possible. Remember, my friends: we are obliged to provide our generous patron with annual mage-service, as rent for the land he has gifted us. Uchtred’s letter says nothing about the nature of the summons, therefore I cannot recommend any one of us three whose specialties would be best suited to this mission. Thomas would be the obvious choice, because of his relationship with Uchtred, but I understand that Thomas has fallen behind on his research and might therefore prefer to remain at Ken Muir. Nevertheless, I would urge us to answer this summons with utmost haste!

THOMAS: ‘I agree, we should attend to this.’
RADERIC: ‘But as the letter does not say what task is required, I’m at a loss as to which of us should go. Perhaps we should draw straws.’
THOMAS: ‘Hmmm… I have already fallen well behind on my work due to the many unforeseen events of the spring…’
MEDIGAS: ‘It is true that Thomas was overly taxed this spring, what with the deviltry in Bogue, that business with the sheep, and the ongoing carpentry work. (Why did we not hire a carpenter who could speak Gaelic? Yes, I know, Thomas, it’s because the Normans are experts.) As for you, Raderic, you have not yet recovered your health, it seems. Perhaps, then, it is best that I go.’
RADERIC: ‘Oh yes? I do still feel a little shaky but I will make the sacrifice if you still have lab work to do.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Well, as much as I loath politics, and especially country politics, I feel I must pull my weight and this is most likely the most propitious time.’
RADERIC: ‘That is most gracious of you. Who would you take with you?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Well, someone who can help me with the local languages, to be sure. I still often have difficulty with the local phrasings. A trio of grogs should do – I was thinking of Corwynn mac Murchan, to start, because he has already met Uchtred and knows the locals well, and he has so far shown himself to be a capable man in a pinch. Perhaps Guillaume de Rouen, who can speak the Normand dialect, if we should need to, and one of my own men, Ugo perhaps, to act as a go-between. That should be sufficient as a delegation. If the nature of the mission dictates that we should need any others, then we can always send someone back to fetch more.’
THOMAS: ‘That sounds find to me, though I’m not sure you picked the most reliable grogs. Whatever.
Raderic, I was mentioning before you came in that I’ve had communication from Borg. It seems that mysterious Italian, Albrechtus Luteus, has gone to meet some warlock called Peter Boatbuilder.’
RADERIC: ‘Peter, the warlock of Innermessan? He is well west of here in the deanery of Rhinns. I’m sure this needn’t concern us. What else have you heard?’
THOMAS: ‘Erland has brought news of Bogue. Sylvanus, The abbot of Dundrennan Abbey, and William, Prior of St. Mary’s Isle, have been sent to St. Lasar’s kirk. Still, rumours of more disturbed graves continue, and there is apparently now pox in the vill of Polmaddy! Most disturbing tidings!’
RADERIC: ‘That is disturbing! Polmaddy is the vill where many of out covenfolk go for their church service when Erlend is not here. I hope they will not bring the pox back here with them! I’m not sure my health could take another hit right now.’
THOMAS: ‘I will see that everyone stays alert, lest it come this way.’
MEDIGAS: ‘I also have some news for the council. A merchant contact of mine mentioned to me some time ago that he encountered a strange boy in Monygof who was looking for an alchemical text. I don’t know much about Monygof, but it seems like a small place to house someone who would want such a book. The trader in question, one Raibert Caird asked if we had such a book and said he could trade a copy of the Aberdeen Bestiary for it.’
RADERIC: ‘I know this Raibert Caird. He’s not altogether trustworthy, in my view.’
THOMAS: ‘A bestiary would be a fine addition to our library, but I don’t need to point out that we don’t have an alchemical book to trade.’
MEDIGAS: ‘True, but maybe Erlend can obtain one for us. Anyway, I was mostly curious about who was asking for such a book in Monygof, and why.
RADERIC: ’That is a good and fair question. Perhaps this is worth investigating.’
MEDIGAS: ‘I was thinking that maybe Éovan and Erlend could make some enquiries amongst the local merchants. They strike me as a good team. They could take a grog, too.
THOMAS: ’Very well. Anything else?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Yes, one other thing, though it is not urgent. It has come to my attention that the the Lothair hills to the northeast of here are rich in lead. Now, I happen to know that where there is lead there is often also silver. I’d be interested in exploring a little up there to see what’s what. Silver would be a good source of income, and who knows, maybe there’s also gold to be found.’
THOMAS: ‘Would we not need to seek permission from Uchtred if we wanted to mine in those hills?
RADERIC: ’Those hills are outwith Galloway, and are held by Domnall mac Dunegal in the name of King William of Scotland.’
THOMAS: ‘And is he exploiting them for silver?’
RADERIC: ‘I know not.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Well, then, as I say – it would be worthwhile exploring. I will volunteer to go when I have free time, so long as nobody objects if I take a few grogs.’
THOMAS: ’Well, we should tread carefully, but perhaps with your earth skills we might be able to offer prospecting services to local nobles. We find the silver and set up the mines in exchange for a share. This could make us invaluable to the local nobles! I say it is well worth exploring this further in the future.
RADERIC: ’Agreed. Is there any further business for this session, then? No? We are adjourned, then.

END COUNCIL

GM NOTESLAB WORK:
Medigas has embarked on a program of magical item creation. His goal is to create three linked items, one for each of the three magi of the covenant. For Thomas it is a signet ring, for Raderic an earring and for medigas spectacles. The idea being that these items would always be worn. He is still working on the properties of the items which will have to be limited or else he’ll never finish them in a timely manner. The main property is the ability to communicate with the other 2 members over any distance with visual auditory and tactile input (as per the 3 items eyes, ears, hands). He has an idea for a fourth item (gold tooth) but the opportunity may never arise unless another mage joins the covenant. For Raderic the secondary function would be an increase to health or stamina. For Thomas it would be a help to his presence or communication. For medigas it would be something to make his perception or intelligence keener.

Raderic is currently in the process of improving his Intellego form.

Thomas is between projects.

Adventure Log

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Peadar and the Wolf (part 2)
Late March and Early April, 1171

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.
WILLIAM: ‘Well?’
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.

VIITHE 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: ‘Mice!!’
RADERIC: ‘What?!’
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?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Italy.’
BODACH: ‘Where?’
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.

Adventure Log

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Peadar and the Wolf (part 1)
A Disturbance is Investigated

I – THE RIG OF DRUMBUIE

It was the morning of March 25 in the year of our lord, 1171 – New Year’s Day. The covenant of Ken Muir was bustling with activity, for a dead body had been found on the banks of the river Ken and the mage, Thomas fitz Roy, was preparing to lead an expedition to investigate its provenance. At the same time, William of Furness, captain of the grogs of Ken Muir, was organizing a second expedition. A report had been made by the shepherd boy, Peadar, of sheep disappearing while on the high pastures of the Rhinns of Kelles, and wolves were suspected as the culprits. At first it was thought that Éovan Auditore da Firenze, a companion to the mage Medigas of Florence would lead this second expedition himself, but William stepped in at the last moment to take over. He had a couple of young new recruits that he wanted to test in the field and felt this would be a prime opportunity. He also wanted to stretch his legs; between his duties as covenant serjeant and demands of Thomas Magus, to whom he was sworn, he had little time for recreation, and a wolf hunt seemed just the thing.

While William was busy seeing Thomas and company off on their expedition, Éovan gathered the two newest recruits, Angus mac Angus and Beitris nic Tormod and showed them the covenant equipment stores. He helped them suit up and gather the necessary gear of rope, lamp oil (lest they get caught out after dark), and so on. He also instructed to Peadar to gather up the flock, because they planned to take the sheep up to the pasture with them, hoping they might attract the wolves.

When all were ready, they set off through the woods to the north of Ken Muir and across the Knocknairling burn. Then they marched northwest, following the course of the Water of Ken, for the next hour or so. They stayed under the eastern eaves of the forest of Glenlee and stepped lively over the stony Glenlee burn when they came to it. Then their path then turned west and they went low between Dunveoch Hill and the Garroch burn. It was about two hours later that they arrived at the Rig of Drumbuie, a high flat spur of land where the grassy terrain sloped upward toward the peak of Bennan to the south and Benbrack to the west. Here that the forest opened up to the high pastures of the Rhinns of Kelles. The clints (cliffs) of the hill known as Meickle Millyea could be seen far to the west. Between the edge of the wood and the dilapidated old dry stone wall known as the De’il’s Dyke was the gently sloped and grassy field where Peadar often put the sheep to pasture.

PEADAR, THE SHEPHERD BOY: ‘Well, this is the place.’
WILLIAM: ‘I see. And you think it was from here that the wolves snatched them, do you?’
PEADAR: ‘Aye. Do you know about wolves, master?’
WILLIAM: (giving the boy the eye) ‘Of course I do, boy. Wolves are greedy beasts – especially when it comes to eating sheep. It is said that at night their eyes shine like lamps. And should a wolf be nearby, lad, is it best you you see him afore he sees you, for if you spot him first he’ll flee cravenly, but if he should spot you first, he’ll freeze you by his gaze and strike you dumb, and that’s how ye’ll stay until the break of dawn!’
William made a chopping motion with his arm as he spat out the word ‘dumb’, and Peadar shrank from the gesture.

Éovan stood up on a rock and peered around. The ground looked like it was smooth and flowing, but in reality there were many low and high spots which would make it possible for man, sheep, or wolf to hide from view if they chose to crouch down. The De’il’s Dyke crossed the field several hundred yards to the west. It looked for all intents and purposes like a collapsed old dry-stone wall, with grass and gorse growing in places between the mounded stones. A wall it may once had been, but now it did not make much of a barrier at all and was easily crossed by foot. To the south and east, down the hill, lay the edge of the forest. A pair of moor birds flitted to the west, but otherwise there was no activity. The wind rustled through tree branches, which were still bare of leaves at this early time of year.

WILLIAM: ‘Tell me about the day that the sheep disappeared.’
PEADAR: ‘It was three days ago, and much like today, only more cloudy and the rain came and went…’
WILLIAM: ‘I see. And what were you doing at the time they disappeared?’
PEADAR: (pointing to one of the higher and dryer places on the De’il’s Dyke) ‘When I come here I like to sit up there, where it’s dry and I can have a good view. Sometimes I play my whistle.’
WILLIAM: ‘And you were watching the sheep on that day? How is it you didn’t notice if wolves came?’
PEADAR: ‘Please, master. I watch as much as I can, but if it rains then I can’t see far, and if a wolf were to come from the edge of the forest I might not see it at all.’
WILLIAM: (disapprovingly) ‘I see. You should do a better job of watching, Peadar.” Then, turning to the rest, he said, “We’ll sit tight for now. Everybody find somewhere comfortable. Peadar, you go about your business as you did on the day the sheep disappeared.’
BEITRIS: ‘Ah, good, I could use a sit. My legs are killing me!’

Peadar climbed up and sat upon the wall, where he huddled in his cloak,and watched the flock, sullenly. Beitris and Angus, the two grogs, found a place near a rock to the north and sat for a bit. Éovan, meanwhile, had spotted a piece of wood sticking up out of the De’il’s Dyke, and he marched over to investigate it. It was, perhaps, an old stile that was used to cross the wall at one time, and fluttering on the end of it was a patch of wool, obviously snagged there from a sheep. It seemed a little too high off the ground for a random sheep to have brushed against it, though. He looked around on the ground and found some tracks that looked like those of a large dog, though he surmised they probably belonged to a wolf, instead.

William, for his part, went down to the woods and walked along the edge, looking at the ground. He, too, saw wolf tracks, though they were none too fresh. He paced for quite a while, hoping to find some human footprints, but found nothing else of note. He looked back up the hill toward the Dyke and where Peadar was sitting – the boy was now lying back and watching the clouds roll across the sky. ‘Ach!’ He thought, ‘a daydreamer! It’s no wonder thosesheep disappeared!’ Miffed, he marched over to where Beitris and Angus were lounging. He didn’t like loungers!

WILLIAM: ‘Get up, you two. I’ll not have grogs under my command fall lax.’
Beitris and Angus stood up. Angus rubbed his bottom where it itched from having sat on wet grass. William looked at him in disdain.
WILLIAM: ‘There are wolf tracks in the woods over there, so you keep your eyes open. In fact, you two should split up so your eyes can cover more ground. Angus, you go over there on the far side of the sheep. Beitris, you stay here. I’ll be down yonder.’
BEITRIS: ‘Master, do you think maybe it was wolves that killed that poor girl that was found in the river?’
WILLIAM: ‘Maybe, but others will investigate that. Until then, keep your thoughts to yourself.’
BEITRIS: ‘Maybe I should set a few snares along the edge of the wood?’
WILLIAM: ‘Yes, that’s a good idea. Go to it.’

Beitris left to set up a few snare traps along the edge of the wood in the place that William indicated. Éovan, meanwhile, wandered over to William and the two shared their findings. Éovan the decided he would also head into the woods to take a look around. William said nothing, and watched him go in silence. Éovan was something of a unknown quantity of the covenant. He was clearly the mage Medigas’ man, rather than one of the grog troupe, and as such William did not feel entirely comfortable ordering him around. Éovan, for his part, seemed content to go with the flow and had never challenged William on anything, and so the two got along well enough despite William’s uncertainty about the brooding Italian.

Éovan trolled the edge of the woods for a while. He found the tracks that William had seen earlier, and decided that this was as good a place as any to wait. He decided to climb a tree so the he could see farther and would be less noticeable to anyone observing. William, Angus, and Beitris hunkered down in the grass on three different sides of the field where the sheep grazed and waited for something to happen. Peadar still sat on top of the old stone dyke. Since William had instructed him to go about his business as he normally would, he played his whistle and day-dreamed. A squall of thin drizzle blew past, coating everything with fine droplets and obscuring everyone’s vision for a time. When the squall cleared there was silence. Peadar had stopped playing the whistle; the only sound was the munching of the sheep.

A wolf approaches a grange of sheep c.AD1200 - http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2013/02/nothin-but-a-hound-dog.html

II – ‘WELL PLAYED, WOLF. WELL PLAYED.’

It was then that Éovan chanced to look down from his perch in the tree and saw a wolf skulking along the forest floor. The wolf seemed to sense his gaze and looked up at him for a second before turning and slinking off into the denser trees to the east. Éovan watched it go, then dropped to the ground and ran out into the field to where William crouched.

ÉOVAN: ‘I saw a wolf!’
WILLIAM: ‘A wolf? Where?’
ÉOVAN: ‘Over there, in the woods. When it saw me if fled into the deeper woods to the east.’
WILLIAM: ‘We should track it. We’ll leave these others here to guard the sheep.’

William informed the others of his plan, and the two companions headed into the woods together. They found the tracks easily enough on the moist ground and followed them eastward. The tracks led through the forest and then curled northward. They lost them from time to time on last autumn’s fallen leaves, but found them again as the wolf crossed one of the few lingering patches of snow. The tracks led them northward and emerged from the wood well beyond the sight of any of Ken Muir’s grogs, then crossed the open field and went over the De’il’s Dyke to the west.

ÉOVAN: ‘It crossed the wall, here, and seems to have continued west. If we are to keep following it, should we perhaps bring Beitris with us? She is a fair huntress, is she not?’
WILLIAM: ‘Yes, good idea. I’m loathe to bring the boy, Angus, though. He will remain here with Peadar.’

So Éovan ran back over the round ridge to a place where he could see Beitris and whistled a signal to her. She came lumbering over and together they rejoined William, who waited in the damp grass. The three of them continued westward on the trail of the wolf.

Back at the Rig of Drumbuie, the young grog Angus had joined Peadar by the wall and the two lounged together. Watching sheep was not especially exciting work, and Peadar had long since learned to pass the time in day-dreaming, whistle-playing, or whittling wood. Angus had no such interesting pastimes, but did manage to find an interesting piece of ground to stare at. As such, neither of the two spotted to two dark figures that darted from the woods and ran toward the sheep. Only when the flock itself reacted by running toward them and bleating madly did Peadar clue in that something was wrong. He stood up on the wall and placed his hand on his brow to shield his eyes from the whiteness of the sky, and peered out over the flock.

PEADAR: ‘Angus! The sheep are scared! I think there’s something out there!’
ANGUS: ‘What is it, do you think?’
PEADAR: ‘I don’t know, but if it’s a wolf we’d best scare it off. Follow me!’

Peadar dropped his whistle and grabbed his shepherd’s crook, then led the way across the field at a run. Angus, sling in hand, was right behind him. They cut their way through the flock of sheep, which parted before them, and then emerged on the far side of the flock just in time to see two dark grey shapes slinking toward the wood; one of those shapes dragged a sheep!

ANGUS: (shouting at the wolves) ‘Hey! You leave that sheep alone!’
He loosed a slingstone at the wolves as he ran, but lost sight of where it went [GM NOTE: He rolled a ‘0’ on the stress die, indicating a possible botch. Rolling two botch dice (the extra one on account of running on difficult terrain) no botch resulted, so it was merely a miss.]

The wolf with the sheep in his mouth continued to run into the woods, but the other wolf turned and faced the two pursuers. It lowered its head and snarled at them, baring its teeth in a most frightful manner.
ANGUS: ‘Peadar! Kill it!’
PEADAR: (incredulous) ‘Ach! Kill it with what? You’re the warrior!’
ANGUS: ‘Hit it with your stick!’
Peadar fumbled for another slingstone and launched it at wolf. The stone hit, causing the wolf to jerk back in surprise. It stared for a second, then tilted its head back and let out a loud and plaintive howl; ‘AWWOOOOOO-OOOOOOOH

Away to the west, William, Éovan, and Beitris walked through the moist grass and bracken on the slopes of Drumbuie Hill when the sound of a wolf howl came from some way off behind them, to the east.

ÉOVAN: ‘A wolf cry! Behind us! We’ve been led a merry chase!’
WILLIAM: (narrowing his eyes and muttering to himself) ‘Aye. One to lead the warriors away while the others pounce! Well played, wolf! Well played!’
BEITRIS: ‘Should we go back?’
An answering howl then came from somewhere off to William’s right, and much closer than the first howl.
WILLIAM: ‘Beitris! Your bow!’
A third howl followed, coming from quite a distance off in a totally different direction. It sounded like there were wolves all around them.
WILLIAM: ’That’s it! We’ve a duty to protect those sheep, not to mention the hapless Angus and Peadar! Quick, now! Back we go!’
Éovan and William took off at a run. Beitris, lumbering behind with her awkward gait, did her best to keep up.

III – A STRUGGLE ON THE RIG

Angus and Peadar stood riveted to the ground as the fearsome wolf in front of them howled, and this howl was answered by two more distant. One wolf was bad enough, but now two more wolves emerged from the trees ahead of them and Angus and Peadar found themselves faced with three snarling wolves, it was too much for the young Angus. He turned to run!
ANGUS: ‘Come on, Peadar! Let’s get out of here!’
PEADAR: ‘Angus! Where are you going? The sheep!’
ANGUS: ‘Sod the sheep! I’m getting out of here!’
PEADAR: ‘No Angus! Don’t run!’
[GM NOTE: Faced with three snarling wolves, bravery tests were called for. Angus failed miserably with a total of 2 against a target number of 6. Peadar rolled a 5, but we added in a +1 for his personality trait ‘Loyal to his Sheep’, giving him the 6 he needed to stand his ground.]

As Angus turned to run, two of the wolves leapt after him to chase him down. Angus did not get far before one of the wolves ran in front of his legs as if to trip him. Angus was nearly tripped up, but managed to keep to his feet. It was then that the second wolf leapt on his back, nearly bearing him down. He felt its claws rake down across the back of his hard leather cuirasse and thanked provenance for the armour that had been given to him.

Angus continued to try and run, but it seemed like one of the wolves was constantly under his feet and it was all he could do to keep from tripping over it! The other wolf tried to bite at his calf, but couldn’t get through Angus’ high boots. Angus yanked his dagger from his belt in desperation and, grabbing it by the sheath, used the pommel to club the head of the wolf behind him. He swung again and again, hurting the wolf, but making it more angry.

Behind Angus, the emboldened third wolf now tried to lunge at Peadar! The boy held his shepherd’s crook before him in both hands, tough, and kept the wold at bay. He thrust the crook toward the face of the wolf, causing it to back off, then jerked the end of his crook to crack the wolf on the skull. The blow was not hard enough to hurt it, but was strong enough to remind it that man was a fearsome predator, too.

‘Help! Help! Wolves!!’ he cried, hoping his cries would reach William and Beitris. The wolf snapped at him again, drawing blood from Peadar’s hand. Peadar waved the crook again, forcing it to back off. He stole a look over his shoulder to see how Angus was doing.

Angus was barely handing on. One of the wolves clamped his jaw down on his thigh and the weight of the beast finally forced Angus to the ground. He kicked and thrashed, trying to fend the wolves off, but he was unable to keep them off him for long, and was finally forced to huddle into a ball on the ground, tucking his head down to protect his neck and trusting to the leather cuirasse to protect his back. He cried out in a whimpering voice ‘Ach! They’re eating me! Lord save me!’

Suddenly, William was there! He had run with Éovan at top speed across the fields! He leapt on top of one of the wolves that was mauling Angus and used the momentum to drive his sword deep into its flank, nearly ending its life. ‘I should never have left you, lad! I’m here now!’ He shouted. The wolf squealed in pain. Éovan was there, too, and stabbed at the other wolf that had clenched its jaws on Angus, but somehow it managed to avoid the blow. He stabbed again with the other dagger and drew blood from the weak wound.

Seriously hurt, now, the wolf that Wiliam had stabbed tried to flee. As it turned, William lunged down again with his sword, this time onto its back, and buried the blade deep into its rib cage! The wolf slumped to the ground dead! Kneeling on top of it, William muttered between clenched teeth; “chew on that, wolfie!”

Out-numbered, the remaining two wolves turned to flee as well. Éovan managed to scrape one of his daggers down the back of one as it ran, drawing blood but not killing it.

Meanwhile, Peadar lashed out at the remaining wolf, which he had successfully kept at bay until now, and gave it a solid thwack on its right hindquarter. The blow was hard enough to elicit a yip of pain, but not strong enough to kill it. It, too, fled, favouring one of its hind legs slightly. The two wolves soon disappeared into the forest.

William immediately turned his attention to the healing of Angus, who was now badly wounded and close to death. ‘Éovan, we need your expertise over here!’ He called, referring to Éovan’s skill at chirurgy. Éovan came over and treated the worst of Angus’ wounds, stabilizing them so the lad wouldn’t die. Finally, Beitris arrived. She was not used to running so far or so fast.

PEADAR: ‘Whew! Thank the lord you arrived when you did! Had you been two minutes later we both would have been dead, I fear!’
WILLIAM: ‘I never should have left you. That cunning wolf drew us off so the others could steal a morsel, I’ve no doubt! You’ve both acquitted yourselves very well, I must say. It looks like Angus will heal, but we must get him back to Ken Muir for proper treatment. We’ll drive the sheep back to the grange… and take this wolf with us!’ He nudged the corpse of the dead wolf with his foot.
ÉOVAN: (cryptically) ‘A one-for-one exchange. A fair trade, I suppose, though not one I usually allow myself to make’
BEITRIS: ‘Have the wolves fled, then? I wish I could have arrived sooner – I would have killed at least one.’
ÉOVAN: ‘That wounded wolf will leave a trail, so you may yet get your chance. Should we not follow it?’
WILLIAM: ‘It will be dark, soon, and we won’t be able to follow any trail. Worse, we will be at a disadvantage, as wolves can see in the dark. No, we will go back to Ken Muir to see that the lad here gets the rest and treatment he needs. We can come back in the morning. I plan to bring the head of the dead wolf to mount on a stake as a warning!’

They returned to Ken Muir and gave Angus over into the care of the household staff. All then retired for a good night’s sleep, except for Peadar whose dreams troubled him, and for the enigmatic Italian man, Éovan, who elected to sleep in the grange with the sheep so he could adopt their scent.

IV – THE CAVE IN THE GLEN

In the morning, William rose early and put together a new group for the day’s expedition. Angus would stay behind because of his wounds, but Beitris would come again. He also commanded that the two brothers, Gillespic mac Donchadh and Fergus mac Donchadh, the lad Lunk, and the three Italian grogs who were servants of Medigas (Bonifazio, Pietro, and Ugo) to join the group. Peadar, the shepherd, was to accompany the group again, too. Lastly, William cut the head from the wolf (giving the eyes to Raderic, at his request) and mounted it on a stake. He planned to stick it in the ground at Drumbuie as a warning against future wolf attacks. Then, together, they all headed back to the high pastures, and arrived at the rig of Drumbuie by late morning.

The first thing William did upon arriving was set the stake up with the wolf’s head on it. “That’ll teach them”, he thought. Éovan and the others, meanwhile, found the place where the struggle with the wolves had taken place and located the tracks of the injured wolves. With William, they followed these westward, climbing over the De’il’s Dyke and then under the northern lee of Drumbuie hill. They crossed the Garroch burn, then turned north and climbed into the ridge known as the Rig of Clenrie.

http://s0.geograph.org.uk/geophotos/02/69/79/2697905_50f2393b.jpg

THE RIG OF CLENRIE WITH MEICKLE MILLYEA IN THE BACKGROUND

They were now close under the clints of Meickle Millyea hill. Next they followed the tracks north and descended into a valley. They came upon a burn and the tracks of the wolves seemed to follow the burn northward. Following this, they descended once again into the forest of Kelles.

The burn soon began to cut deeply into the forest floor.
WILLIAM: (muttering) ‘We could follow these tracks all over the place.’
ÉOVAN: ‘True, but since we have not yet seen the carcass of a sheep, I’m willing to bet they lead to a den.

They followed it to a point where there were a series of small pools, but then the trail was lost. They decided, in this case, to continue to follow the burn. It descended into an obvious glen and eventually led to point where it was joined by a smaller, dry stream joined the main channel. They paused here, for a moment, uncertain which way to head, when they heard the plaintive sound of a sheep bleating. The sound seemed to be coming from the southeast, from up the hill in the direction of the dry streambed. They followed this up and came upon a small clearing.

Here they found a single sheep caught in a dense bramble of thorns and trying desperately to free itself. When they approached, it redoubled its efforts to try to scamper away, but was unable to move.

WILLIAM: ‘You lot, keep your eyes open – these wolves are more clever than you’d think. Lunk, grab that sheep and free it.’
LUNK: ‘OK, Sarjeant. What about some clippers, though? I might need some clippers.’
WILLIAM: (disdainfully) ‘Use your dagger, man!’
LUNK: ‘I ain’t got no dagger. Can I use my sword?’
WILLIAM: ‘Sure, whatever, just do it.’
Lunk walked up to the sheep and grabbed it. He tried to pull it free from the bramble, but it was stuck fast by its curly hairs.
LUNK: ‘Aw. Look at it’s eyes! It’s scared!’
WILLIAM: ‘Never mind its eyes! I said ’just do it’!’
Lunk freed the sheep and turned it over to the care of Peadar.

The rest of the party, meanwhile, looked around for any sign of movement. Éovan, looking a little higher up than the others, saw a dark patch farther up the hill. It was a small cave, not much more than a crack between two rocks. Beside the entrance to this was a piece of stone – a monolith worked to square sides and sticking up about two and a half feet from the ground. It jut out on an odd angle, and looked very much like an old roman milestone. Éovan scraped the moss and some of the orange lichen off of it. He could see that there were some curvy scroll designs on the lower part, but no roman numbers to indicate a mile marker.

Ignoring the stone for the moment, Éovan turned his attention to the cave entrance. It was shaped like an inverted ‘V’ and was low to the ground. The only way in for a human would be to lie down and use one’s elbows to work their way in. It looked like a perfect cave for a wolf’s den. He drew his daggers and was about to enter the cave when Beitris cautioned him. She asked, if there were wolves inside it, would it not be better to smoke them out. But Éovan listened at the opening and didn’t here the sound of anything moving around inside. There were wolf tracks on the ground, but nothing fresh. So he didn’t think there was anything inside, and told Beitris as much. Then he crouched down and began to wriggle his way in. And just to be on the safe side, he held a dagger in each hand.

He elbowed his way into the cave, which slanted downward slightly. He paused after going in about waist deep and then paused until his eyes adjusted to the poor light. The cave wasn’t big – it only went back a few feet further. It was cramped, but large enough to hold several wolves if they huddled against one another. A sort of nest of wolf hair and dried leaves lay against the back of the cave, betraying its purpose as a den. A human skull lay in the corner, and several bones lay scattered about, some of which also appeared to be human. Éovan inched in a little more and felt about in the nest of hair. He discovered more bones, and heard an odd scraping noise, which turned out to be an old, rusty, broadsword. He exited from the cave and showed the sword to the others. The sword had no markings on it and was otherwise unremarkable. With work, William thought, it could be repaired.

WILLIAM: ‘All right, here’s the plan. There don’t seem to be any wolves about, and now that we’ve put our scent all over this place, they’ll probably be hesitant to come back. So we’ll go back to Ken Muir and return tomorrow with that old sheep that Peadar mentioned.’
PEADAR: ‘Aye. Old Hob, I call him.’
WILLIAM: ‘Right. Old Hob will act as bait. Beitris will set some snares around, and the rest of us will wait in the bushes or trees until the wolves come. Hopefully, several of them will get caught in the snares and we can kill some of the others, allowing us to thin the pack dramatically by raining a hell of arrows down upon them. I should think that will encourage any surviving wolves to move on.’
BEITRIS: ‘What, climb those hills again? Can we not just set the snares now while we’re here?’
WILLIAM: ‘No! And do not question me again! The exercise will do you good, anyway.’

Before leaving, they turned their attention back to piece of stone. The scroll-like markings seemed to disappear beneath the ground, so they decided to dig up the rest of the stone. This took some time, but with many hands it was not difficult work. They they finally got it out of the ground it was revealed to be an old cross with a circular motif, half buried upside down.

WILLIAM: ‘An upside down cross? I don’t like the look of this. Do you think this is some sort of tomb?’
ÉOVAN: ‘I don’t know, but we can bring the bones back with us and let the Magi investigate them. Same for this sword. I suppose we could bring the cross, too, but it would take Lunk, Pietro, and three or four others to carry it – it’s not light.
WILLIAM: ’We’ll leave the cross here. It won’t be going anywhere. We’ll prop it upright, however. Just in case. Right. Everyone ready to go?’
ÉOVAN: ‘I think so.’
WILLIAM: ‘Good. Back to Ken Muir, then.’

END SESSION

Adventure Log

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The Monks of Saint Lasar's (part 3)
The Noilus Revenant

Picture credit: Jean-Pol GRANDMONT http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:01_La_Chaise-Dieu_-_La_danse_macabre_1.JPG

IX – THE VILLAGE SEEKS SHELTER IN THE CHURCH

Brother Tancredus led the throng of villagers through the woods toward the churchyard. Brother Erlend Svensson, his brow knitted with concern, marched along beside him, and the grog Domhnail mac Donchadh followed mere steps behind. Tancredus led them into the churchyard and up to the door of the church. He swung the door open and stepped inside, then stood to one side and and watched as the villagers queezed into the church. Corwynn mac Murchan made sure he was one of the first through the door. He didn’t trust Brother Tancredus at all, and wanted to keep an eye on him. Brother Erlend, meanwhile, stood outside the door and urged the villagers to hurry on through. Thomas fitz Roy took the opportunity to pull Brother Erlend aside while they were still outside.

THOMAS: ‘Brother Erlend, a quiet word if you will…’
ERLEND: ‘Yes, by all means, what is it Magister Thomas?’
THOMAS: ‘Brother, tell me, have you yet disclosed to Brother Tancredus the nature of this ’holy’ water that he’s been so obsessively sprinkling about the churchyard?’
ERLEND: ‘Er, no we have not discussed this matter yet.’
THOMAS: ‘If I understand the rites of the holy church, is it not unusual to be sprinkling so much of this water throughout the yard, even if it was normal holy water?’
ERLEND: ‘Well, if there is a history of haunts and apparitions, some priests might take it upon themselves to sprinkle holy water around the ground to sanctify it and keep the spirits at bay, but I’ll grant that this is an unusual practice at best.’
THOMAS: ‘Really? Perhaps you might take Brother Tancredus aside to ask what he thinks he is accomplishing with this water. Then I think the time has come to tell him that his water is corrupted!’
ERLEND: ‘I agree…’
THOMAS: ‘He seems to like you more than me, I couldn’t help but notice. By this I mean that it should be you that tells him.’
ERLEND: (ignoring Thomas’ self-doubt for the sake of propriety) ‘…but we must allow for the possibility that he is ignorant of the qualities of his holy water. He may not be aware that he is taking it from a corrupted source.
THOMAS: ’Very well. I’ll leave it to you – though if you need me I’ll make myself available.’
ERLEND: (looking around and seeing that most of the villagers had now entered the church) ‘Hmmm. Yes, I think now is the time while everyone settles in and Tancredus is not otherwise occupied.’

Bother Erlend stepped into the church behind the last of the villagers and turned to the priest.

ERLEND: ‘Brother Tancredus, before the prayers begin, could I have a brief word with you in private?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Well, er, yes, of course, but first let me see that everyone has settled in and is comfortable.’
ERLEND: ‘No, I’m afraid I do not think it can wait and what I have to tell you might affect the tone of the prayers you wish to deliver later.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Oh? How so?’
ERLEND: ‘Well, let us just step outside here for a moment and I shall tell you.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Outside? Oh, very well.’ (then, turning to Thomas) ’Lord Thomas, will you see to my flock and make sure everyone is comfortable. Ensure them that when Brother Erlend and I come back we will take up a most fervent and vigilant prayer behind the alter to keep the evils of this night at bay.
THOMAS: ’Yes, I will certainly do what I can, brother.

Thomas turned to address the villagers, encouraging them to find places to sit on the floor so that they might be comfortable for the night. Erlend then led Tancredus outside into the gloom of the night. Corwynn, not willing to let Brother Tancredus out of his sight, slipped out behind the the two monks and stood in the shadow of the doorway. He listened as Erlend broached the subject of the holy water.

ERLEND: ‘Brother Tancredus, I could not help but notice that the water which you sprinkle so liberally throughout the churchyard is the Water of our Lord. Now, I have head of instances where such water is spread around as a protection against demons and apparitions… isthat your cause?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Yes, you could say that. It is part of an Eastern Rite. I learned about it in Constantinople.’
ERLEND: ‘It might seem to a casual observer that this was a frivolous use of our Lord’s blessing, unless there was some evil to be kept at bay. Would you agree?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Well…’
ERLEND: ‘One might also think that the Good Lord’s blessings would be more wisely spent on, say, suffering, than on protecting already consecrated ground.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Oh, but you are perceptive, Brother Erlend, I’ll grant you that. There IS an evil that I’m trying to keep away. Are you perchance familiar with the gospel of Thomas?’
ERLEND: (Hesitatingly) ‘Yes…’
TANCREDUS: ‘Er, and what about the works of Arius of Alexandria?’
ERLEND: ‘Are you talking about his teachings that the Christ is separate from the God?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Yes, I am. And in your reading of Thomas did you notice that Jesus is never once refereed to ’Christ’ or ‘Lord’, but instead refers to him as the ‘Son of Man’?
ERLEND: ‘Well, I never…’
TANCREDUS: ‘Do you recall that Thomas preaches that we should ’keep the big fish and throw the small fish back!?’
ERLEND: ’I’m not sure that’s exactly… Forgive my thickness, Brother Tancredus, but I’m failing to make the connection between your fear of an apparition and the Gospel of Thomas.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Well, I have to say that I do not understand the connection myself. But you asked about the Holy water, and I have read… and believe, after extensive research… that (he dropped his voice to an urgent whisper) the resurrection Christ is a myth!’

Erlend crossed himself, but was lost for words for a moment.

TANCREDUS: (continuing) ‘Brother! What if it’s not true?! What if Jesus never was the son of God at all, but a homunculus created by demonologists and peddled to the people as a way of perverting the good religion of the Lord!’ (Tancredus eyes grew wild and he stumbled over his words as he tried to spit them out.) ‘Imagine if the whole church is a myth!?’
ERLEND: (uncertain how to react before now the now-unchained Tancredus) ‘It… it’s a theory… um… Are there others, locally, who…. eh… I come from the Hebrides, you see, and I am not that familiar with your local congregations.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Well, of course they all follow Abbot Muiredach, who is as obtuse as they come! None of them think for themselves. I was under the impression that you, at least, did think for yourself!’
ERLEND: ‘Oh, em, I do, I do.’
TANCREDUS: ‘What exactly are your beliefs, Brother Erlend, if I may ask? Do you believe in the all power of our Lord as I do? Do you believe in the Christ?’
ERLEND: ‘I do believe in the Holy Trinity… and who knows there might even be more than the Holy Trinity…’ [GM Note: Readers may recall that Erlend secretly still believes in the old gods, as well as God]
TANCREDUS: ‘MORE?!’
ERLEND: ‘Well, we don’t need to get into my beliefs right now. Suffice to say that I think we should allow for the possibility that some of the older gods may still inhabit the earth and may even enter the hearts of men. Some of these may now be called saints, angels, or even demons.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Then you are not altogether for Christ either! Am I reading you right?’
ERLEND: ‘No! You’re reading it completely wrong! I’m a devout Christian. However, I’m not one to pass judgement on your unique perspective…’
TANCREDUS: ‘Nor I on yours.’
ERLEND: ‘…but I am curious as to what this apparition is that you so fear. Have you seen any evidence of demons before?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Only in the souls of men!’
ERLEND: ‘What about physical evidence? I mean, if we are to pray for salvation tonight, would it not be more effective to know what we are up against?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Surely we should pray to God and that will be enough, no? For protection from temptation and the sins of mankind?’
ERLEND: ’I’m a firm believer that the more directed and focused one’s prayer, the greater the chance that the Lord will provide? Can you describe a demon?’
TANCREDUS: ‘I have never seen a demon in physical form!’
ERLEND: (changing tactic) ‘Let me ask you, then, another question. The holy water that you sprinkle on the ground, where do you take it from?’
TANCREDUS: ‘We make it here and bless it ourselves.’
ERLEND: ‘Where do you take the water from?’
TANCREDUS: ‘From the burn. Why do you ask?’
ERLEND: ‘Do you add anything to it?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Yes, it is a special recipe that comes from a book I have.’
ERLEND: ‘I see. What are the ingredients, if I may ask?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Oh, come – this is not important. Why are you asking me this now?’
ERLEND: ‘It could be important. You see it is possible that the ingredients you have added have made the water less holy and not more…’
TANCREDUS: ‘Well, the water is formulated to ward off the evil influences from the Christ and to return our good church to the sanctity of God.’
ERLEND: ‘Eh. Did you say ’from the Christ’? I see. So you believe that the Christ-Demon is trying to invade your parish? Is that it?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Well, the evidence is all around us! There is an empty grave and a revenant stalks the woods killing people! Not one hour ago poor Willie mac Iain’s broken body was found down by the river!’
ERLEND: (sarcastically) ‘You do have a point. Very Christ-like behaviour…’

Just then a howl came from the woods further down the valley – a most inhuman sounding howl. A flash of lightning streaked across the sky and this was followed by a peal of thunder.

TANCREDUS: ‘We must get inside, now, quickly, and start our prayers. I’m worried there will be little between us and evil tonight but the walls of our holy church!!
ERLEND: ‘Yes, very well. I’ll just consult with my fellows and then join you at the altar.’

Tancredus turned to enter the church. He was startled to see Corwynn lurking in the dorway like some kind of ghoul, but merely shoved him to one side and ran inside toward the altar, where he proceed to set out candles and light them. Erlend and Corwynn entered the church after him and closed the door behind them. They sought out Thomas and told him all they had learned, and then tried to ease Thomas’ panic.

THOMAS: ‘I knew it! He’s a false priest and has been spreading unholy water all about the place! We’re holed up inside an unholy church with a monster outside!! You say he followed a recipe from some heathen book from the East!!!? We should denounce him!! He should be denounced to the congregation and burned!! Is that not how to deal with his kind?! Erlend, you’re a brother of the cloth! Do something!’
ERLEND: ‘Now now. Let us reach deep inside to find calm. I do believe that Brother Tancredus has strayed, but not beyond the point of no return. His heart is in the right place and he can be led back to the path of good. If he can be persuaded that his misguided practices have brought this doom upon the village, then he can repent and be led back to the light. We must keep and open mind. It is possible that not everything we have taken from the good book is necessarily true…’ [GM Note: A reference to monotheism]

A crash of thunder interrupted Brother Erlend in his speech, shaking the very ground. As the sound rolled away, the voice of Brother Tancredus could now be heard from the choir of the church. He was calling from Brother Erlend to come and join him in prayer. And so Brother Erlend made his way to the front and knelt beside Tancredus and allowed himself to be led in prayer. This time, he listened carefully to Tancredus’ words. The prayers seemed legitimate enough, though they were directed at the Lord and not to Jesus.

The sound of thunder continued for a while from out side, but eventually died away to be replaced by the rattle of heavy rain. Other sounds occasionally drifted in through the little church windows – what sounded like moans or howls, and sometimes a bang or a snapping noise. Erlend, without interrupting his prayer, caught the eye of the two grogs, Corwynn and Domhnail, and gestured for them to peer out through the doorway to see if they could detect anything. But the night was dark, and there seemed to be nothing out there, even by the light of a lantern.

X – MIDNIGHT

Several hours later, the two brothers were still in prayer. A few of the villagers were still awake and dutifully repeating the amens, but most had fallen asleep, including Thomas the mage. Brother Tancredus showed no sign of flagging, but Erlend kept hoping for a chance to lead the prayers on his own in order to correct a few omissions. Finally, he leaned over to Tancredus and asked him at a whisper if he would like to take a rest for a few moments to un-parch his throat. Tancredus glanced over at the younger monk, and Erlend encouraged him, saying that he would take over leading the prayers for a time.

Tancredus nodded and got up off his knees. He turned to the back of the church and located one of his prize wine bottles. Then, with his back to the congregation, he stood contemplatively facing the wall and raised his wine bottle to his lips every so often He looked like a man who had regained some measure of crontrol. Erlend, meanwhile, took over the leading of prayer and made a conscious attempt to reintroduce Jesus and the trinity. He hoped it was not too late. He was reminded of the urgency by a resurgance of the howling noises coming from outside the church. He tried to reassure the congregation that it was only the wind, but he feared it was not the case.

Thomas found himself waking at the sound of one of these howls which seemed particularly close to where he lay near the door. He roused himself groggily and checked that the two grogs were doing okay. He noted with some satisfaction that Erlend had taken over the prayers and was addressing the Christ. He also saw Brother Tancredus standing alone, head bowed, in one of the far corners of the church. He took this opportunity to go and speak with him.

THOMAS: ‘Brother Tancredus, perhaps I could take this opportunity to have a word with you about the doctrines that you follow?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Eh? Oh, it’s you, is it?’
THOMAS: ‘Yes. In particular I wanted to ask about these Eastern rites that have influenced you.’
TANCREDUS: (shaking his head and slurring his words slightly from the wine) ‘Eastern rites? Brother Erlend has a big mouth.’
THOMAS: ‘Be that as it may, I’m most intrigued as to which texts you might have drawn these rites from. My fellow magi and I are scholastics at heart, as you are probably aware, and they would be of interest to us.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Do you then know the writings of Simon m-m-Magus?’
THOMAS: (lying, though poorly) ‘I am familar with Simon Magus, yes. In fact I think its fair to say that I’m familiar with him. Which particular recipe were you looking at?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Recipe?’
THOMAS: ‘For the holy water? Perhaps you could show me. It may help to present a solution to our problems…’
TANCREDUS: ‘Oh, very w-w-well. I will show you the b-b-book itself… I believe it is here somewhere.’

Tancredus went rummaging under the altar and brought out one of the large books from beneath. It was the book written in Greek that Thomas had previously tried to peruse without success. Tancredus moved to the back wall of the church and stood under the crucifix. He handed the book to Thomas. Thomas took the book and set it down on the tabernacle, then flipped through it again. As he could neither speak nor read Greek he was at a bit of a loss, but he tried his best to look knowledgeable.

THOMAS: ‘I see… mmmhmmm… yes… Which parts of this book have you read, Brother?’
TANCREDUS: ‘The whole book, naturally!’
THOMAS: ‘And what is it that you’ve been trying to achieve with this book? Have you been trying to raise the dead…?’
TANCREDUS: ‘What? No!’
THOMAS: ‘…Have you been trying to raise a ghoul?’
TANCREDUS: ‘That is obscene! I will not hear any more of this!’
THOMAS: ‘Well, you have to admit that your rites are rather unorthodox. It is not usual to call the Christ a demon! It is not usual to sprinkle corpse water around the churchyard – which is what you’ve been doing!’

Tancredus simply looked blankly at Thomas, caught off-guard by the accusation.

Erlend, meanwhile, was now standing and had raised his voice in praise of Christ.

Thomas pressed on, trying to intimidate Brother Tancredus into a confession.

THOMAS: ‘A ghoul has been raised this night! You are the source of this! It’s going to come straight for you! What do you have to say for yourself?!’
TANCREDUS: (raising his voice) ‘No! My rituals and rites were performed to protect us! Protect us from demonic influence!’
THOMAS: ‘Then they have failed spectacularly. The body of poor, misshapen Brother Noilus has risen from the grave to take revenge on the villagers and to kill you all!’
ERLEND: (raising his voice to the congregation, half of whom were still asleep) RISE! RISE EVERYONE! WE ARE GOING TO SING A SONG IN PRAISE OF THE LORD!’
THOMAS: (continuing to harangue the old priest) ‘What do you think the Church is going to do to you?…’
ERLEND: (to the congregation) ‘RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU BELIEVE IN CHRIST THE LORD!’
THOMAS: ‘…and if you manage to survive the ghoul that you’ve raised and your practices become common knowledge?! What then??!’
ERLEND AND CONGREGATION: (voices raised in song)
THOMAS: ’THINK ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES! IF NOT FOR YOUR SAKE, THEN FOR THE OTHERS!

By now, with all this noise, everyone in the church was awake. Thomas yelled at Tancredus, whose face grew red and twisted with emotion. Erlend sang his heart out and the villagers joined in loudly. Corwynn and Domhnail stood off to the side near the door and watched in wonder.
It was then that there came a knocking at the door. The two grogs looked at each other. The knocking turned into a pounding.

ERLEND: (Shouting) ‘RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU BELIEVE THAT THE CHRIST IS THE SON OF THE LORD AND THE HOLY SPIRIT!’
CONGREGATION: (singing and raising of hands)
THOMAS: (Shouting at Tancredus)‘BLASHPEMER! NECROMANCER! THAT IS WHAT THEY’LL CALL YOU!’
DOOR: (Pounding and shaking as the grogs stepped away)
TANCREDUS: (frantic and sweaty, speaking to Thomas) ‘NO! That is not the way it happened! The book explained it all! How Jesus was not the son of God and was not resurrected, but that the demonologists corrupted the church and has led everyone astray for over a thousand years!’

Thomas stared in horror as a drop of blood suddenly appeared on Tancredus’ forehead and ran down his cheek! Tancredus seemed not to notice, but continued to cry out in his own defence. The light from the candles flickered as a breeze passed through the church. Thomas looked up to see that the hands and feet of the porcelain crucifix were bleeding! Another drop of blood fell onto Tancredus! The wooden cross itself was now smoking! Erlend raised the voice of the crowd into a crescendo of song in praise of Jesus! The two grogs stared at the now violently shaking church door. They drew their weapons in fear!

TANCREDUS: ‘…AND SURELY IT WAS JUDAS WHO WAS RIGHT….’
THOMAS: ‘LOOK! THE CROSS! IT BURNS
TANCREDUS: ‘…THE FALSE PROPHET…’
ERLEND: ‘LOUDER! SING FOR YOUR VERY SOULS!’
TANCREDUS: ‘…AND THE FOLLOWERS OF SIMON MAGUS SAID THAT ALL SEX IS PERFECT LOVE…’
Just then the cross burst into flames! The head of the porcelain Christ exploded into a thousand shards and dark blood gushed out, pouring down over Tancredus’ face! The door of the church burst open! The revenant broke into the room with mindless violence, letting out a deafening roar! The voices of the villagers turned from songs to screams and there was a mad press toward the back of the room!

XI – THE BATTLE

Amidst the mass confusion, the revenant charged toward the two grogs. It’s skin looked tough and leathery, its eyes only black holes. It was coated with mud and bits of sticks and straw stuck out at all angles. When it roared, it bared its yellow teeth! Corwynn and Domhnail backed away in fright, their weapons at the ready. Corwynn poked his quarter-staff at the thing, hoping to keep it at bay. He struck it, but not with enough force to stop it. It clawed madly at Corwynn and raked its grotesquely long fingernails across the frightened grog’s cheek, drawing five lines of blood. It slashed at Domhnail with its other claw, flinging him against the wall like a rag doll and bruising him horribly. Stunned by the ferocity of the attack, Domhnail shied away from attacking and began to look for an escape.

[GM Note: Corwynn succeeded in hitting, but couldn’t beat the thing’s soak roll. The creature attacked next, drawing one body level from Corwynn and three from Domhnail, leaving Corwynn hurt and Domhnail with a medium wound. Both grogs passed their bravery test, but Domhail decided to back away rather than press his luck after being so wounded in one blow]

Brother Erlend stood behind the altar and stared dumbly for a moment. Then he threw open the bible and began to flip through it frantically looking for something, anything, any helpful passage that he might use! Thomas, for his part, could think of nothing better to do than grab Tancredus by the collar and shake him, shouting ‘DO SOMETHING! YOU BROUGHT THIS UPON US!’ Tancredus’s knees buckled and he slumped to the ground sobbing. The throng of panicking villagers surged toward the choir of the church. A few who were lucky enough to find themselves of the edge of the crowd squeezed around behind the beast and fled out the door.

Corwynn and Domhnail backed away from the violent figure of the revenant! It clawed at each of them as they retreated; Corwynn turned the blow and Domhnail tried to, but the creature clipped his shield and Domhnail lost his grip upon it. The battered shield flew across the room and buckled against the far wall. Fearing for their lives, Corwynn cried out: ‘Domhnail! Retreat behind the altar! Maybe we can use it for defence!’

Thomas Magus, meanwhile cast the spell ‘Leap of the Frog’s Legs’ upon himself and leapt over the crowd and the insane revenant! He fled toward the door. Later, he would explain that it was his plan to flee the negative aura of the infernal church so that he could more effectively cast a spell, and since there was nobody present in the church at that time who wanted to be even partially turned into a frog, no-one dared to question this tactic later. Brother Erlend continued to occupy himself by scanning the bible and looking for any appropriate blessings against revenants.

Finally Corwynn and Domhnail managed to back round the altar. The revenant let them be for the moment and turned its attention to the panicked villagers who now stood nearby, It lashed out with its claws in a spasm of violence, throwing the innocents of Bogue aside willy-nilly and splashing the walls with their blood!

Corwynn and Domhnail then tried with all their might to tip the heavy stone altar over onto the beast, but with Domhnail now weakened as he was by blood loss, it was to no avail. Now the monster was approaching them again and Domhnail, feeling helpless and vulnerable, retreated into one of the corners of the church to cower.

Erlend continued to look for an appropriate passage in the bible that would help and frantically tuend page after page of the bible.

Thomas, for his part, was now standing in relative safety outside the church, turned and tried to cast a spontaneous spell similar to Demon’s Eternal Oblivion, but his effort fell far too short to have effect.

Corwynn suddenly found that he was the only man of action in the room! Domhnail and Thomas had fled, Erlend was reciting prayers, Tancredus was catatonic, and the villagers were either fleeing or dieing all around him. He had to stand up and do something! But what?! Then his eye fell upon the shroud which covered the altar and he remembered that Thomas had once told him it was writ-upon with words of praise to the lord. Feeling that any blessing would be useful at this point, he hooked the tip of his quarterstaff into the cloth and swirled it around until the staff was wrapped in the shroud. Then, reaching over the altar, he swung his staff decisively at the revenant. He thwacked it across its back, creating a wide gash and drawing black, oozing blood! At last – some success!

Brother Erlend was struck by the sudden memory of a passage in the bible that might be of use. Feeling blessed by the will of God, he flipped to the appropriate page and cried out in triumph. He then recited the passage in full voice and thereby filled Corwynn with the love of Jesus and hope against this evil! [GM Note: Erlend was asked to roll on his Church Knowledge and given a cumulative target of 24, thanks to a critical success which allowed him to quadruple his roll, he came up with a grand total of 57 after the third roll! I allowed him to divide the difference between the target and the roll by 5 to claim +7 one-time bonus points to be used by the party during the combat, and added a bonus +1 for Erlend’s piety for a total of +8]

Emboldened by his first successful attack and by the raised and triumphant voice of Erlend behind him, Corwynn jumped up on the altar and swung his shrouded quarterstaff in a wide arc over everybody’s head, screaming as he did so! The staff landed with a sharp crack on the right arm of the revenant, so hard the bone inside snapped! The arm went limp! Without a pause, the revenant retaliated with the other claw and raked it across Corwynn’s chest! Luckily his armour soaked the blow! [GM Note: Corwynn rolled a critical on his attack and with the exploding die and 7 of Erlend’s bonus points allowed him to succeed vs. The revenant’s defence by more than 20 points. This granted him an exceptional blow, which, after doing 3 body levels of damage, meant a maimed arm! An excellent result for Corwynn!]

Domhnail the grog still cowered in the corner, but wanted to help. He spotted the holy-water censer under the altar and, not knowing it was corrupted, he tried to yell out to anyone listening that it was there. Luckily he was either not heard or nor understood and the holy-water was left alone.

Brother Erlend now left off his prayer. He, too, cast about for anything that might help Corwynn to exercise this evil and his eyes fell upon the still burning cross on the wall. He grabbed it, ignoring the pain, and ran around the side of the altar to press the flaming cross onto the back of the beast, shouting ‘…EVEN THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH, I WILL FEAR NO EVIL, FOR YOU ARE WITH ME….!’ He struck the beast and pressed the burning cross into its tough skin, leaving a mark, though the blow seemed to do little to stop it! [GM Note: Sadly, the cross had by now lost its divine aura, otherwise it might have had more effect].

Thomas still stood near the door of the church and tried to cast spells which might affect the beast. He attempted to cast ‘Despair of the Quivering Manacles’, which would at least have impeded its attack, but with the infernal aura that the church now had he simply could not overcome its resistance to such magicks. The creature ignored both the priest and the magus and concentrated instead on brutal Corwynn, swiping at him. Corwynn was lucky enough to parry the blow, however.

Corwynn and Erlend continued to strike with quarterstaff and cross; together they managed to hold the ferocious beast at bay. Thomas finally gave up on casting spells and decided to resort to more mundane methods. He drew his sword and charged in to stab the beast from behind!

The Beast tried to swipe at Corwynn again, but he spun away and avoided further injury. Using the momentum from his spin, Corwynn swung the shrouded staff once again and cracked it across the head of the thing! Its skull split upon contact, spilling black blood and brains across Thomas, who now stood behind it. The beast fell to the ground. It twitched, and then lay silent.

XIIAFTERMATH

The battle was over. The church was dead silent but for the whimpering of Tancredus who still cowered in the corner. Erlend tossed the smouldering cross down onto the despoiled body and let out a loud sigh.

ERLEND: ‘Whew! Valiantly fought! Is everyone alright?’
THOMAS: ‘I, for one, am disgusted! But you have all been an inspiration and I shall remind my fellow magi of your worth! But for now it seems we must cleanse these grounds!’
ERLEND: ‘I fear it will be a long process to re-sanctify this church.’
THOMAS: ‘Obviously, we will not be able to do it now. You should at least say a prayer, should you not, Erlend?’
ERLEND: ‘At the very least.’
THOMAS: ‘An what about Tancredus over there? This should be brought to the attention of the bishop of Whitherne, or perhaps the Abbot of Dundrennan, at least, don’t you think?’
ERLEND: ‘The Bishop of Whitherne or the Abbot of Iona, I would say. Given that this church belongs to them. Tancredus would undergo a trial by canon law, the likely result of which would be burning at the stake. However I think he now sees the error of his ways’ (then shouting to Tancredus, who still whimpered in the corner) ‘Brother, do you now see the error of your ways?’
TANCREDUS: (wimper)
ERLEND: ‘Yes, you see – he see’s the error of his ways. Perhaps a week or two at Ken Muir would do him some good.’
CORWYNN: ‘Forgive me, but would that not make us look like we were harbouring a demonologist?’
THOMAS: (patronizingly) ‘Thank you for your comments, Corwynn. We’ll be sure to take them into account. Now Let us deal with our immediate problems, then we will take Tancredus back to Ken Muir for further questioning. Depending on what we learn, we may follow up with a communiqué to the bishop.’

Corwynn set about gathering the un-holy-water, the body of the revenant, and other questionable paraphernalia together. He wrapped them in cloth, and then in the shroud which seemed at least to still be holy. He and Domhnail dragged the entire lot outside and dumped it all into Noilus’ sodden grave. Then, with the help of Erlend and Thomas (both of whom had considerable strength) they carried the heavy granite stone of the altar and placed over the hole grave hole – all as pracaution against the revenant re-animating yet again. Then they returned to the church and swathed the dead in cloth, leaving the bodies inside. They bandaged the wounded and placed them in the beds of the guest room of the manse, while the members of Ken Muir and Tancredus retired to the priest’s quarters in the manse for the night, taking turns at keeping a watch.

During Erlend’s watch, Tancredus spoke softly from his bed.
TANCREDUS: ‘Erlend?’
ERLEND: ‘Yes?’
TANCREDUS: ‘I fear I have made a grave error.’
ERLEND: ‘Yes, you have.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Will you hear my confession?’
ERLEND: ‘Yes, I would be honoured.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Well, it all started in Constantinople when I came across a book. Have you heard of Tharene of Tyre? No? I’m not surprised. He wrote a book called the Diabolopsuche, which I happened to lay my hands upon. It confirmed many of my suspicions about the false nature of Christ and contained detailed rituals for communion with the True God. These rituals were to restore the church to the one god, taking it back from the usurper, Christ. When I was at Iona, I tried to speak to the abbot about my learning, but he is no deep thinker. He prefers to stick to the status-quo, saying that surely if new ideas were worth considering they would surely have been thought of already. He refused to let me speak of the matter, and when he caught me writing of the subject he confiscated many of my books, including one that I was trying to write. Then he banished me to this… this backwater parish in Galloway. I managed to keep a hold of a few of my books, including the Diabolospsuche.’

TANCREDUS: ‘Later, I followed the ritual in the Diabolopsuche, with poor Noilus as my unwitting aide. I’m ashamed to say it now, because it seems so obvious, that I was mislead, but this ritual involved the gathering of twelve toads! Poor Noilus had no concept – he simply followed what I told him to do. Then we exhumed the body of that poor girl…
ERLEND: ‘You did?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Yes, and her heart went into that foul potion! When we went to re-bury her, there was already narcissus growing on the grave! Well, we could not then dig it up again – that would surely invite unnecessary questions! So I instructed poor Noilus to dispose of the body elsewhere, instead. Just how it ended up washed on the shore near your covenant I shall probably never know.
ERLEND: ’It was the will of God, no doubt! It was his way if sending us to you, that we might set you right. And that is what we intend to do.’
TANCREDUS: ‘How do you intend to do that? I’m afraid there is not much future for me in the church. They will surely have nothing but a flame and a pile of faggots waiting for me.’
ERLEND: We-e-elll, none of your villagers know that you are responsible for this yet, right? So-o-o, if we were not to speak against you ourselves, there would be no earthly witnesses to your errors. If you were to renounce those, and this confession is a good first step, and not to repeat them then I think it is still possible for you to find salvation. The good Lord is merciful, after all.’
TANCREDUS: ‘You mean you will let me go?’
ERLEND: ‘I would have to speak to the others, but I am inclined to do so, yes. You have learned your lesson, and often those who have learned their lessons are those who end up being the strongest and most devout servants of God.’
TANCREDUS: (thinking in silence for a few moments) ‘If you let me go, I will become a hermit in the service of God. I do not see myself any longer in the role of a priest. I would turn my books over to you. Burn those that you will and make use of the others.’
ERLEND: ‘Very well. Get some sleep. I will consult with my fellows again. Then I will decide upon your penance and we will discuss this again in the morning. By the bye, where did you come by your collection of books? Was it in Constantinople?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Yes. I knew a merchant then by the name of Levi Isaak. He was a Jew. He was the source of many wondrous things.’
ERLEND: ‘I see. And do you have anything else to confess? You mentioned Simon Magus – have you partaken in the pleasures of the flesh?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Oh, no! At least, nothing since my last confession!’
ERLEND: Very well. Sleep well, then, knowing that I will look out for you. I will contemplate your penance. You have had many warnings along the way, and to have ignored them all can be seen as a sin in the eyes of God. But I believe that your repentance is sincere. I will pray on the matter.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Thank you, Brother Erlend.’

By the time morning came around their plan had become clearer. Thomas, Domhnail, and Tancredus would set off at the earliest light for Ken Muir so that their passing could happen in secret. Corwynn and Erlend, who were the most popular with the local villagers, would go to Bogue and to Dalri to explain that Brother Tancredus had fled during the night. They would advise them to stay away from the church, which had now been corrupted, and told them that Erlend would be back on the morrow to lead them through the Easter Sunday service (omitting the fact that he was not, himself, an ordained priest). He would then return each Sunday to lead them in services, erecting a preaching cross in their respective vills, until such time as the proper authorities had time to send a new priest their way.

Back at Ken Muir, Tancredus would be questioned and then allowed to live for a time within the friendly forest that surrounded their covenant, far from prying eyes. Thomas and Erlend suspected that there might be some use for him in the future, so they thought it would be best if his fate was put to the next council of the magi.

END SESSION

[GM Note – Experience: Thomas gained three experience points, Erlend two, and Corwynn and Domhnail one each, as per the basic rules. Corwynn was granted an additional experience point for his deft handling of the revenant in combat, as nominated by his fellow players.]

The books and scrolls obtained from Tancredus include:
Scala Paradisi
Diabolopsuche
Consolatio Philosophiae
Guide for the Perplexed

RESOLUTION:
There are many loose ends to be resolved, here, but they will wait for the next mage’s council. The ultimate fate of the villagers, including the bodies of those that died, will need to be decided. They was some discussion so trying to absorb the villagers of Bogue into the covenant (and it is true they need new Grogs) but the players were loathe to try to incorporate more because it would mean cutting down some of their ‘friendly forest’ to make cropland. What to do with the demonic church and the lack of priesthood in the parish had been deferred to the next wizard’s council and will probably be deferred to the Bishop. Tancredus’s books will be incorporated into the covenant library, but further study of at least two of them will have to wait until the Greek and Arabic languages have been learned. Perhaps they will be traded away, but at what consequence? Hopefully these loose ends will addressed in the near future – else dire consequences may arise!

UPDATE (Played April 16 2013):
There was much debate over how to handle the matter of the infernal church. Medigas of Florence argued for informing someone in the church, with an eye to developing an ally in church. He felt that by informing an underling, they could allow that underling to claim responsibility for bringing the issue to public knowledge and thereby gain the benefits. In exchange, he thought that the discreet passing of the information to that individual would put that person in their debt. It would also help them avoid unwelcome attention from the hierarchy of the priesthood.

Raderic mac Gillolaine and Thomas fitz Roy, on the other hand, argued against a rapprochement with the church, and preferred to strengthen their ties with Uchtred, their noble lord. They felt that by informing him, they might prove their worth to the kingdom in mystical matters. This would allow Uchtred, in turn, to approach the church in his own manner and to foster his own relations with that organization. And to ease the passage of this letter to Uchtred, it was decided to write it to Hugh de Morville of Borg – Thomas’ uncle.

Ultimately, it was the second method which was chosen and Thomas was once again elected to write the letter. In this letter, Thomas mentioned the ‘misguided monk with heretical ideas’ who had ‘since disappeared’. He mentioned the infernal ground and the revenant and how he, Thomas, had overseen the destruction of it and the return to normality for the time being. He also mentioned that, because of the infernal grounds of the church, the king’s vills of Bogue and Dalri were at risk. He mentioned that the local villeins were now going to Trevercarcou parish for their spiritual needs, but that the infernal aura of the bogue church would likely spread unless seen to immediately by someone of authority in the church. Lastly, he suggested that a new spiritual leader should be provided for the parish of Bogue, and suggested that perhaps at the new church being built in Dalri, could serve the parish instead. It was briefly considered that Erlend might be put forth as the new priest, but Erlend objected. He preferred approach God through learning rather than through preaching.

William of Furness was elected to deliver this letter and he set off immediately with Corwynn mac Murchan. They walked to the castle of Borg and arrived as dusk was approaching on Saturday, the 27th of March. They were dismayed to find that Hugh de Morville was not at Borg, but across the Irish Sea at his lands in Cumberland. William did not want to delay alerting the authorities by waiting for Hugh to return or going to Cumberland to deliver the letter, so he decided to deliver it directly into the hands of Lord Uchtred himself. They spent the night at Borg, and the following morning, Easter Sunday, they participated in the morning mass. Then, while children of Borg were busy rolling their eggs down the earthen rampart of the castle, they set off toward Castle Fergus in the east.

They arrived in the midst of the royal Easter festivities and were welcomed to join in. As soon as he was able, William approached Fergus and handed him the letter explaining that it was originally intended for Hugh. Uchtred set the letter aside, saying he would read it later, but William urged him to read it immediately, saying that it addressed important matters that concerned the king’s lands. So Uchtred broke the seal and read the opening lines, then invited both William and his most trusted advisers into his private chambers for a consultation. The result of this was that Uchtred decided he would immediately head north with William, Corwynn, and the most trusted of his Gaelic lords to inspect Bogue for himself.

When they arrived at bogue they found the village to be empty. The church was much as Corwynn had last seen it, with the door broken in and with long scars resembling scratch-marks on the frame around it. Brown stains of blood marked the floor inside where the villeins had died and where the Christ figure had exploded. The empty graves in the churchyard had since been filled in, however; perhaps by some of the villagers. The vill itself was empty of people, except for those who still suffered from pox, for they had gone to Trevercarcou to celebrate Easter.

Not seeing much physical evidence of demonic possession on his tour of Bogue, Uchtred effectively shrugged and was about to turn and head back home. William, however, feared that Uchtred would take the whole affair too lightly and so he took the calculated risk of mentioning that Corwynn had witnessed the entire affair personally. Angry, Uchtred asked why William had not mentioned this to start with, and William merely pleaded that he assumed that Magus Thomas’ letter had explained everything already.

Uchtred then questioned Corwynn at length and insisted he accompany Uchtred to Trevercarcou, which he did. At Trevercarcou they found most of the villagers of Bogue and they were questioned in depth by Uchtred. The villeins confirmed what Corwynn had already said, and eventually Uchtred was satisfied that he now knew the truth. He then permitted William and Corwynn to return to Ken Muir, while he himself returned to Castle Fergus to develop a strategy to deal with the problem of Bogue. And that was the last anyone from the covenant heard about the affair for several weeks.

Adventure Log

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The Monks of Saint Lasar's (part 2)
"Things happened, mistakes were made..." - Thomas fitz Roy

V – FURTHER INVESTIGATIONS

Thomas fitz Roy and Corwynn mac Murchan returned to St. Lasar’s Kirk around mid-morning, feeling that questioning the villagers further would not be too helpful. Thomas was all for waking Brother Erlend Svensson from his slumber, but Corwynn knew how Erlend liked his sleep and had himself been the victim of a tongue-lashing or two for waking the monk too early. He advised that they instead profit from the fact that there was nobody about to search the church grounds once again. They already suspected that someone, possibly Brother Tancredus was up to no good – all they needed now was the smoking fire to prove it.

They went to the Sepulchre first. It was a dry-stone tomb with sloped sides and a flat top. The cross stone which lay on top was no longer there as it had toppled to the ground (see previous session), but the carved marker stone in the front face of the sepulchre was still there. It informed that the tomb was dedicated Gilbothyn of Arran, a knight from the Isles who died in 1136 in the service of Fergus of Galloway. He had been granted these lands and, upon his death, bequeathed the little church of St. Lasar to Iona with enough land to pay for its upkeep. The slab was carved with depictions of the Crusade.

The search of the tomb revealed little else. They found the place where (presumably) Brother Noilus had run into the forest and discovered it was no well trodden path – he must have simply crashed through the woods in his zeal to flee. Further along the edge of the woods a more substantial path was found. It led to a place on the burn that might have been a watering hole. Other than some very old footprints, there was little to find here, either. Thomas, on a whim, decided to cast the spell Vision of the Haunted Spirit to help him see if there were any ghosts lingering, but the spell revealed nothing.

Next they turned to the church and the manse. They looked at the lean-to storage shed to see if they could determine if there were any secret compartments and loose flagstones, but found nothing. They re-entered the church (described in the previous session) to look around. They found little other than the bronze receptacle that Tancredus was using to sprinkle holy-water about the church. They wondered briefly why the monk would be sprinkling holy water around so often, but otherwise felt like they were at an impasse.

They decided to wake Erlend after all and walked back toward the manse, where they discovered that Brother Tancredus’ door was now slightly ajar. Corwynn continued into the guest chamber to begin the slow process of rousing Brother Erlend from bed [GM Note: Erlend has the Deep Sleeper flaw] while Thomas approached the door to Tancredus’ quarters.

Thomas knocked gently on Tancredus’ door, softly calling his name. There was no reply, so he peeked into the room. There was nobody there. Thomas let himself in and quickly found the books in the corner. He remembered brother Erlend telling him about them and in particular he remembered mention of the illumination showing the monks climbing to heaven and falling from the ladder. He decided to browse this book for himself. The book with the illumination was called Scala Paradisi by someone who called himself Ioan Climacus and seemed to discuss matters of theology. Another book in latin, the Consolatio Philosophiae by Boethius was more of an in-depth treatise on the humanities. It was un-illuminated. The other two books were also un-illuminated and were written in foreign scripts. Thomas surmised that one of these was Greek and the other Arabic, but since he had no facility with foreign languages he could get little more out of them.

Meanwhile, Corwynn was waking Brother Erlend in the guest chamber. The monk was at first sluggish and unresponsive.
CORWYNN: ‘Brother, you must get up. There will be a funeral soon and you have promised to help.’
ERLEND: (sleepily) ‘Did someone feed the pigs yet?’
CORWYNN: ‘Yes, we’ve hired someone to do that now.’
ERLEND: ‘Did you say funeral? Just let me put my sandals on. Where did I put my other sandal? Oh! Yes! The girl, Eileen! Have we learned anything more?’
CORWYNN: ‘No, not yet.’
ERLEND: ‘Oh! I thought of something – or maybe it was a dream, I don’t know. I’ve heard of an old legend of a creature that would dig buried bodies out of the earth to eat their flesh. I believe in Arabic lands they call them ghul.’
CORWYNN: ‘You dreamt of this?’
ERLEND: ‘It might be a lingering memory.’
CORWYNN: ‘Well, I don’t think Eileen’s body looked eaten.’
THOMAS: (entering the room after his investigations) ‘Indeed I did not. Organs had been removed, but there were no signs of eating. Only pox-marks. Perhaps it’s time we stop being so passive regarding our questioning of Tancredus.’
CORWYNN: ‘When did we start being passive?’
ERLEND: ‘I had another thought. Perhaps we should go easier on Tancredus so as to lure him to Ken Muir to identify the body of Eileen himself. In the meantime we can go to Dalri to question those who live there.
CORWYNN: ’I don’t think he will want to go to Ken Muir.’
ERLEND: ‘Not even for books? I’ve already spoken to him about exchanging some.’
THOMAS: ‘I think it’s an excellent idea.’
CORWYNN: (mumbling to himself) ’It’s not going to work…’
ERLEND: ‘Very well. We’ll help with Noilus’ funeral service, then go to Dalri, then try to convince Tancredus to come to Ken Muir with us.’
CORWYNN: ‘Brother Erlend, what do you make of this sprinkling of holy water about the churchyard?’
ERLEND: ‘I thought it unusual, but it casts some doubt upon the theory of Tancredus as necromancer. I can’t think why a necromancer would sprinkle holy-water about the place.’
THOMAS: ‘Perhaps he’s afraid of something and wants to ward off evil?’
ERLEND: ‘You mean that he knows about the necromancy but cannot speak of it?’
THOMAS: ‘Yes. This is why I think we must question him.’

VI – FUNERAL AND WAKE

About an hour later the three emerged from the guest chamber to see Tancredus standing near the gate of the churchyard and greeting villeins as they arrived. They watched this for a while and soon realized than many more people were arriving than lived in the local village. This was because St. Lasar’s Kirk served a much wider area than just Bogue – it also served Dalri and other settlements within the parish.

Erlend approached Tancredus to offer his aid again.

TANCREDUS: ‘Brother Erlend. I’ve been waiting for you. You will help with the service, will you not?’
ERLEND: ‘Yes, indeed.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Good. You can take Brother Noilus’ habitual place. I also have a favour to ask of you, if you don’t mind.’
ERLEND: ‘Yes, by all means.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Well, this being Good Friday according the reckoning of the Bishop, some of the more well-to-do villagers, and I daresay also your Norman friend Thomas, will be expecting a small Good Friday service. The thing is my heart is heavy and I just don’t have it in me today to deliver this service. Would you do it?’
ERLEND: ‘Well, I’m not accustomed to delivering this service and have not had any time to prepare…’
TANCREDUS: ‘Well, it needn’t be long and frankly the villagers won’t be expecting much….’
ERLEND: ‘Very well, I’ll do my best. Perhaps I can have an hour with the bible after the funeral to prepare?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Oh, certainly! I plan to hold a small wake for Noilus after the service and funeral in any case. You could use that time, perhaps. I do appreciate this, Brother Erlend.’

The crowd fairly filled the church for the service. Thomas and Corwynn stood at the back of the church. Tancredus mumbled the liturgy and those at the back of the room couldn’t make out what he was saying. Thomas tried not to fall asleep. Erlend could understand the latin but was still somewhat dozy from lack of sleep and didn’t pay any attention to Tancredus’ words. If he had we would have noted that the liturgy made no mention of the holy trinity. Erlend passed the holy-water to Tancredus when asked to and noted that it had a dirty appearance to it. Tancredus sprinkled this on the body. When the service was over the body was carried outside to where somebody had already dug a grave and the Noilus was interred.

After the burial the crowd retired to the yard in front of the church. Tancredus nipped inside to get some of his best wine with which to honour his friend and soon returned. He offered some to Erlend, who insisted that Tancredus share it instead with the villeins.

Meanwhile, bold a young girl of about 8 years old approached Thomas and tugged on his robe. Surprised, the mage looked down at her.

THOMAS: ‘What is it, child?’
GIRL: ‘Did you kill brother Noilus?’
THOMAS: (taken aback) ’No! Oh, no! None of us killed Noilus. There was a tragic accident and…

Just then a woman came over and slapped the girl’s hand. She started to drag her away, saying:

WOMAN: ‘Martina, come away wi’ ye and leave this gentleman alone!’
THOMAS: ‘No, she’s really no bother dear woman. A charming child, in fact. What is her name?’
WOMAN: (to Thomas) ’I’m very sorry sir. She won’t bother you again!’
THOMAS: ’She’s no bother.’
GIRL: ’I’m Martina!’
THOMAS: ‘Well, Martina, did you know Eileen?’
MARTINA: ‘Aye, she’s my sister!’
THOMAS: ‘Your sister? You mean was…’ (then the the mother) So you must be Eileen’s mother? What is your name?’
WOMAN: (crossing herself) ‘Aye, puir wee girl. My name is Eibhlin.’
THOMAS: ‘Did Eileen ever spend any time with brother Noilus, perhaps helping him with anything? What about brother Tancredus?’
EIBHLIN: ‘No.’
MARTINA: ‘Noilus was ugly! Nobody liked him. He had a big hump on his back and he never spoke! They said you killed him!’
EIBHLIN: ‘Shush, girl!’
THOMAS: ‘Who said this?’
MARTINA: (twirling around with her finger pointing back over hear head) ‘Everyone!’
THOMAS: ‘Well, that’s not right. Noilus actually tried to kill me. Does everybody know that?’
MARTINA: ‘Did he eat you?’
THOMAS: Eat me?! Why would you ask that?’
MARTINA: ‘The older boys said that Noilus eats people.’
EIBHLIN: ‘Martina, no! Those are just kid’s stories, sir, that they told Martina to scare her! They called him an ogre and other nasty things.’
THOMAS: ‘What did you think?’
EIBHLIN: ‘I think he was misunderstood, more than anything. He was kind enough and kept to himself.’
THOMAS: ‘Have any other children of the vill disappeared or died?’
EIBHLIN: (moisture began to rim her eyes) ‘No. Only Eileen.’
THOMAS: ‘What else can you tell me about Noilus?’
EIBHLIN: ‘Not much. He never spoke words, but he did like to clean. The church and yard are very well kept, do you not agree? He was also working on repairing the stained glass window.
THOMAS: ’Which window?’
EIBHLIN: ‘The one from the church. It was taken out so he could work on it.
THOMAS: ’I see…’

Meanwhile Erlend had snuck back into the church to pour some of the holy water in the tin cup that he carried. He planned to bring it back to Ken Muir so that Raderic might investigate it with a spell.

Corwynn was standing close to Tancredus as he spoke to the local villagers and drank his wine. He was trying to listen to what the monk was saying, but also caught what some of the villagers were saying out of earshot of Tancredus, including some of the following:
‘…aye, ’tis a shame he won’t see his diligent efforts come to fruition…’
‘…and I think that maybe he did have something to do with that body they found…’
‘…no doubt they’re also diabolists, drawn here by Noilus himself! But what I cant figure out is why they killed him in…’
‘…and maybe they are somehow in cahoots and they won’t leave until they get what they came for…’

Alarmed that the rumours were getting out of hand, Corwynn wandered over to where Thomas was talking to Martina and Eibhlin.

THOMAS: ‘Have there been any other strange occurances in the vill lately?’
EIBHLIN: ‘What, other than the pox and the novice monk dying at the hands of strangers?’
THOMAS: ‘He did not die at the hands of strangers. As I’ve said many times, it was an unfortunate accident! And it only happened after Noilus tried to push that stone down on top of me, which he did right after I mentioned you daughter’s name!’
CORWYNN: (trying to calm things down) ‘Sir, perhaps were should not discuss this here and now. The villeins already have plenty to talk about.’
EIBHLIN: ‘Discuss what?’

Erlend who was now emerging from the church with a cup containing some of the suspicious holy water. He was trying to hide it under his robe.

THOMAS: (calling out to ‘Brother Erlend) Brother Erlend! This is Eibhlin, Eileen’s mother.’
EIBHLIN: ‘Oh, my. You are the big monk that the villagers have been talking about!’
ERLEND: (with a big smile, he spoke in his soft, highly pitched voice) ‘Aye, big but friendly!’
CORWYNN: ‘Eibhlin, please listen. We didn’t come here by accident. We are from Ken Muir and were sent to investigate a misplaced body that we found near our vill. We are quite sure the dead girl was your daughter, Eileen.’
EIBHLIN: (shocked) ‘That cannae be! She was buried before my eyes in the ground! Flowers grew on her grave!’
CORWYNN: ‘Yes, but we dug it up and…’
EIBHLIN: ‘ACK! You did what? Oh my lord they were right! They said that you came here looking for bodies and the big monk himself was a diabolist and…’
CORWYNN: ‘Yes, but the grave was empty, so we found nothing there. Your daughter was not in that grave!’
THOMAS: ‘Listen Eibhlin! Corwynn is saying that someone else dug up that body before we got here! There is something evil going on in this vill as God is my witness!’

Eibhlin burst into tears as she tried to absorb this. Erlend fanned the flames by telling her that Eileen’s body had ‘been debased in the most horrific and gruesome fashion’ Eibhlin then collapsed to the ground, sobbing so deeply she had to gasp loudly to suck in enough air to breath. This attracted the attention of the other villagers and Trancredus who came running over. Several of the women reached down to help Eibhlin to her feet. Tancredus confronted Erlend:

TANCREDUS: ‘Brother Erlend, what is the meaning of this?!’
ERLEND: ‘We have told sweet Eibhlin the tragic story of her daughter’s fate.’
TANCREDUS: ‘No! No! You’re not spreading these lies again!’
ERLEND: ‘Brother, this is the truth. It is God’s truth! She deserves to know. She is her mother!’
TANCREDUS: ‘Brother Erlend, this is an embarrassment and a disgrace. There is nothing to tell! These are all assumptions on your part!’
ERLEND: ‘Nevertheless it is done. The words have been spoken and received and understood.’
TANCREDUS: (speaking quite firmly) ‘Brother Erlend! There will be no need for you to conduct the Good Friday service afterall!’

Tancredus and the villagers all stood about scowling at Erlend, Thomas, and Corwynn. They were not feeling very welcome at this point. Corwynn tried to explain:

CORWYNN: ‘Brother Tancredus, you may know something of what is happening here, but you may not know that you know it. It is important that you come with us as it might jog something in your memory.’
TANCREDUS: ‘All I know is that you found a body. Lord knows maybe that much is not even true – I have only your word.’
CORWYNN: ‘It is true – would you have preferred we brought it with us?’
THOMAS: ‘Come with us to Ken Muir! You can see it for yourself.’
TANCREDUS: ‘I have a flock to attend to here, with important services both today and on Sunday. I cannot – will not go!
THOMAS: ’Brother Erlend can stay and perform these services.’
TANCREDUS: ‘I do not think the villeins will accept him, now.’
ERLEND: ‘Do you think I am a diabolist? That is so sad. We will go and come back tomorrow, and then you can come with us to Ken Muir and we can exchange books like we spoke of earlier.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Oh! Stuff you and your books, brother Erlend!’

With that, Tancredus turned his back on the group and stomped with the crowd of villagers who had been standing watching. He received some gestures of sympathy from them and also a great many questions which he tried to fend off with grace. His face was quite red with anger and embarrassment.

VIITHE SMOKING FAGGOT

The three travellers from Ken Muir conferred and decided to head back to Ken Muir, however they thought they might at least try to convince one of Eileen’s family to go with them to identify the body. They felt that if they could at least convince one of the locals of the truth that they would be more trusted in the village.

With this in mind, Corwynn approached Eibhlinn and her husband, Barra as they left the churchyard. Barra was quite angry that his wife was so upset by her previous encounter with the men, and so he had little patience. Corwynn was able to get past this, though, and convince the man that he could easily put everything to rest if he only came to Ken Muir to identify the body. [GM Note: Corwynn rolled a critical and came up with a total of 19, enough to overcome Barra’s anger and mistrust.] Barra agreed to come with them on the condition that this would put an end to things and he and his family would no longer be bothered by these strangers.

They arrived at Ken Muir a few hours later with Barra of Bogue in tow. Corwynn showed Barra around the community while Thomas and Erlend went up to the tower to find the other two mages, Medigas of Florence and Raderic mac Gillolaine. Thomas told them everything that had happened at Bogue and what they had so far discovered [GM Note: He summed this up with the words ‘Things happened, mistakes were made…’]

Erlend handed the cup containing the sample of Tancredus’ murky holy water to Raderic who then examined it. He sniffed at it and noted the smell of earthy decay. Then he placed a drop of the liquid on his tongue and smacked his tongue against the roof of his mouth a few times, casting Subtle Tongue of the Poison Purity, a spell that he knew of the second magnitude.
RADERIC: ‘It is indeed water, though there is some other content, probably from living tissue.’
ERLEND: ‘Living tissue?’
RADERIC: (Smacking his tongue again) ‘I taste human remains – either this concoction was made from them or it was perhaps exposed to them. Perhaps this is grave water?’
THOMAS: ‘Human Remains!?’
RADERIC: (grimacing) ‘Yes, and a soupçon of frog. Somebody pass me some wine to rinse with, please.’
THOMAS: ‘I knew it! Well, either Tancredus is a necromancer or the person who made this holy water is! He’s been spreading this around the churchyard!’
ERLEND: ‘And he used it for the funeral of Noilus, too. Yes, I think this is the smoking faggot that points to the fire.’

Raderic also cast a spontaneous spell, Wizard’s Subtle Touch, to see if he could detect anything magical about the potion. It did not display any magical properties, but as he told the others he couldn’t vouch if the water was indeed holy, or perhaps infernal in nature.

The three magi then went down to where the body of Eileen had been interred and Medigas used his earth magic to bring it back to the surface. They cleaned it and gave it a fresh swathing to hide the mutilations and decay. Then, finally, Barra was brought over to look at the body. He recognized it immediately as his daughter Eileen, and immediately broke down in despair. It was some time before they dared to rouse him from where he knelt, but eventually they did.

Thomas tried to explain that this was the work of someone in their very own village, perhaps Noilus. He suggested that the village of Bogue was under threat. Corwynn then assured Barra that the good people of Ken Muir would stand by him and his fellow villeins against whatever this threat might be, but that they needed the cooperation of the villeins if they were to be successful in fighting this evil.

Barra asked the Eileen’s body be buried properly at Ken Muir by Brother Erlend [GM Note: And the magi agreed that it would be good optics to show that Ken Muir was a good Christian community]. A ceremony was performed out at Erlend’s small chapel and Eileen was interred for the third and final time.

Next the group planned the expedition back to Bogue. Erlend and Corwynn agreed immediately to going back. Thomas at first did not want to go, feeling that he was unpopular with both the villagers and Tancredus, but in the end he decided to finish what he started. Since they were travelling at night, they decided to bring an extra grog along and Domhnail mac Donchadh was chosen to accompany the group.

VIIIBUMPS IN THE NIGHT

They reached Bogue again shortly after dark and Barra led them directly to his house where he found that all was well. Then he turned to Corwynn to ask that they be left alone so he could break the news of Eileen’s reburial to Eibhlin gently. The travellers from Ken Muir were about to take their leave when the sharp sound of alarm came to them from across the village, followed by a loud bang!

Barra and the four men from Ken Muir ran through the darkened village toward where they could now hear some crying and the frantic voice of a woman. “That’s Fiona’s house!” exclaimed Barra and he burst into the cottage through the door. The woman, Fiona, was inside explaining that she had seen a dark, lumbering form in the moonlight down near the burn. She described it as a sticky man, which they gathered was the local term for some sort of mythological Wild Man. By then some other villagers had arrived and Barran and Corwynn organized them into a hunting party to go and search for this thing.

The hunting party went down across the fields to the burn, which was still in spate. The ground was muddy all around and had been torn up by the feet of villagers, sheep, and cattle over the recent weeks. They couldn’t anything remarkable on the ground, and to make matters worse the moon disappeared behind the clouds leaving them in the dark. Torches were brought and Corwynn started to organize the group to head upstream to see if they could find anything. They were interrupted again by the sound of a loud scream from the village, and this time it was accompanied by a darker and more bestial sounding growl. They ran back to the village to find that another crowd had gathered.

THOMAS: ’What’s going on, here?!’
VILLAGER: ‘There was a beastie, here! Did you no see it?’
ERLEND: ‘Is anyone hurt?’
VILLAGER: ‘Maighread, here, was grabbed. Her wrist is hurt!’

The woman Maighread stood nearby in silence and held her wrist. Her clothes were soiled with mud.

ERLEND: (speaking to Maighread) ‘Here, Let me look at that.’
OTHER VILLAGER: ‘No diabolist is going to touch my wife!’
ERLEND: (offended) ’I’m no diabolist! I’m a true monk!’
THOMAS: (afraid of the villagers turning against them because of rumours) ‘Barra! Tell them we mean no harm!’

Barra moved to the centre of the crowd and pleaded for calm. Then he informed the villagers that he had been to Ken Muir with the men and could vouch for them as good Christians. He explained how they had found the body of Eileen (leaving out the more sordid details) and had come here to help the village, and that they should put their trust in them. With his explanation the crowd relaxed.

One of the village men then described the sticky man. He described it as a beast-like man, covered in mud but with sticks and straw sticking out at odd angles here and there. The creature had grabbed Maighread’s wrist, causing her to scream. She hit it with a bucket she had been carrying in her other hand. The creature backed off, then fled as the crowd of villagers ran up to her.

Looking around on the ground they found some barefoot tracks. These led in an irregular fashion through the village to the northeast. The crowd of villagers huddled together, asking many questions about where the beast had come from and why it was in the village. Somebody asked if Good Friday was the night of the resurrection, and this reminded Thomas of the monk.

THOMAS: ‘Tancredus! Has anyone thought to check on him at the church? Brother Erlend, you lead the way! Domhnail! You stay here and help protect the village!’

Thomas, Erlend, and Corwynn marched up the trail to the church with lanterns in hand. They creaked open the low wooden gate and entered the churchyard. All was dark but for a single light coming from Tancredus’ room in the manse. Acting on a hunch, they circled the churchyard to the graves to inspect the grave of Brother Noilus. What they found was a disturbed pile of earth, as if something had erupted from the ground!

THOMAS: ‘Noilus has emerged from the ground to haunt the village! What should we do, Brother Erlend!’
ERLEND: ‘Listen, was that the sound of a door closing?’
CORWYNN: ’It’s Tancredus! I’ll go this way around the church, you two go the other way!’

Corwynn rounded the church and nearly barrelled into Brother Tancredus who held an armful of large books. The poor monk was so startled he dropped them and the candle he was holding.
TANCREDUS: ‘Bless me! Look what you made me do! What are you doing sneaking around here in the night?’
CORWYNN: ‘Brother Tancredus, what are you doing out here at night with all these books?
TANCREDUS: ’I had them in the manse to fill out the register to record Noilus’ death and to write a letter informing the Abbott. Dear me. Help me pick them up, will you?’
CORWYNN: (kneeling to pick up the books) ‘Did you know that there is no body in Noilus’ grave?’
TANCREDUS: ‘Oh, pish! Don’t start that again!’
CORWYNN: No, really! There’s a gaping hole where the grave should be!’
TANCREDUS: (gasping under the weight of the books) ‘What are you babbling about?!’
CORWYNN: ‘Follow me, I’ll show you!’
TANCREDUS: ‘Well, let me put these away first!’

Tancredus placed the books inside the church just as Thomas and Erlend arrived. Tancredus gave them a scowl, but followed the three of them out into the churchyard where he was confronted by the disrupted grave of Noilus.
TANCREDUS: ‘Ach! Now who did that?! This is getting embarrassing!’
CORWYNN: ‘Whatever came out of this grave has attacked the villagers this night.’
TANCREDUS: ‘Attacked? What do you mean?’

Corwynn described what had happened in the village.

TANCREDUS: ‘This is most unbelievable! Are the villeins all right?’
CORWYNN: ’They’re shaken, for sure.’
TANCREDUS: (expressing concern) ’They’ll need me. I’d best go down to the village myself.’
CORWYNN: ‘You should also know that we took Barra back to Ken Muir with us and he identified the body that we found. It was indeed Eileen, as we tried to tell you!’
TANCREDUS: ‘But I buried her with my own hands!’
CORWYNN: ‘True, but you can’t watch the graves all day and night. You also buried Noilus while we watched, and yet his grave has been disrupted, too. There are many things that will happen in this world without our seeing.’
TANCREDUS: (looking relieved) ‘True, true. We should go to the village, then.’

When they reached the village things had calmed down, but several of the village men had gone off to scout around and see that the perimeter was safe. Corwynn told those who remained that Noilus’ grave and now empty and a new panic was started. There were many calls for people to stay inside and lock their doors, but since no one house was big enough there was much argument over where to go. Someone suggested going up to the church since it was the only place big enough to hold them all. Others said they would not go up there. Through all this Tancredus expressed surprise, shock, confusion, and above all, concern. It seemed to Erlend, who was especially empathic, that he truly wanted to take charge and tell people what to do, but had no idea what to tell them.

While all this was happening, Barra and one of the other men of the village came running up to the house.
BARRA: (shouting in panic) ‘Something got Willie! He was right behind us on the trail near the woods – then he was gone! There was the sound of crashing through the trees, but no sign of anybody when we looked!’
CORWYNN: ‘Quick – we should go and search! We should all go – nobody stays behind! It’s too risky. Gather everyone up!’

They gathered all the remaining villagers and began to head up to where the man Willie was last seen.

Suspicious of Tancredus carrying books around at night, Corwynn and Thomas decided to leave the group and head up to the church again to examine the books that he had been carrying. Upon arrival Thomas looked at the books again. One of them he had seen before – it was the one written in Greek. A second book was the church registry, a rather large tome which recorded the births and deaths of the parish and all of the accounts from the lands it held. Tucked inside this was a terse letter written to Abbot Muiredach of Iona, informing him of the death of Noilus and requesting a new groundskeeper. The remaining book contained mostly empty pages, but the first twenty or so were written in a slightly sloppy Latin. They discussed a variety of religious matters, including the Gospel of Thomas and others. It appeared to be a thesis of sorts on aspects of Christianity, but it was rough and incomplete. Thomas surmised it was a book in progress being written by Tancredus himself.

Meanwhile, Erlend and Domhnail stayed with Tancredus and the villagers as they headed for the spot Willie had last been seen. They found some tracks leading into the woods and down to the burn, which they followed. Once they reached the edge of the burn they fanned out to search around, and eventually they found the body of Willie. Many of his bones had been broken, and this greatly increased the anxiety of the crowd.
TANCREDUS: (shouting out a desperate plan to the villagers) ’We’re not safe! We should all go to the church where the Good Lord and sacred ground will protect us!’
ERLEND: ‘Er, Tancredus, about this sacred ground I feel there is something I should tell you.’
TANCREDUS: ‘What would that be, Brother Erlend?’

Erlend was about to say something about the taint of the holy water when he realized that the entire village hanging on his next words. Since the anxiety level was already high, he decided to keep this news to himself.’

ERLEND: ‘Eh, well, remind me later that I have something to tell you.’

With that the crowd of villagers, most of them carrying torches, gathered up and headed for the church en masse to barricade themselves inside for the night.

END SESSION

HISTORICAL NOTES: This map from the late 1800’s shows the location of the vill of bogue (now a farmstead) and the ancient churchyard to the northwest of the vill. The run of the burn can also been seen. Just try to imagine more forest.

As for the church itself, it would look much like the medieval church of the same period excavated at modern Barhobble in Wigtownshire. In our imaginary St. Lasar’s Kirk, the altar is located where the screen is shown in the picture below and there is no screen and the window at the back of the church is slightly larger.

http://jimzglebeblog.blogspot.ca/2011/01/wigtownshire-ramblers-chapel-finian.html

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