1.1 Things Go Bumping in the Night

[tab][/tab][tab][/tab][tab][/tab]of Things Go Bumping In The Night

Participants: sir Giorgios, Miklos, Maia. Some teamsters, 1-2 guards

[tab][/tab] Snow is slow to melt this high in the mountains, and yet spring is finally here. The late winter snowdrops gave way to early bluebells carpeting the apple tree hill and life reawakens in a frenzy. The weather is still fickle and the winds still run strong, but the bite of the chill seems to at least have soften somewhat. Melting ice creates run-offs and soon the rivers will bloat with water. The Covenant itself starts a different rhythm centered around its new masters. The teamsters bring up fresh provisions, the first in quite some time, covenfolk return to their wooden homes, flocks of sheep and goats are herded up from winter pastures, bell sounds bouncing off the mountain cliffs.
[tab][/tab] Most magi busy themselves with scholarly pursuits. A visiting learned man has commandeered a large area in the ground floor of the rotunda and is teaching reading and writing, geometry and mathematics to those interested. Most covenfolk sent their younger children though there are more august personages participating too. Anastaj has started teaching some rudimentary and advanced Latin in the council rooms, this is quite a smaller class. He privately suspects the two young girls (soon of marriageable age) are there because of Pavo and not Pliny, and talked about it with the young man. He also had cautionary words for the other Bjornaer; that one spent most of his time as an eagle flying high above the mountains, a very dangerous pursuit in the Vlach's mind. He advised never to be out of sight of the rivers, avoid the alpine plateaus and weird rock formations, stay clear of the northern mountains especially Smolikas, and a list of many other admonitions. By the hungry look in the young man's eyes despite his vigorous nodding, he was sure he was fighting a losing battle.
[tab][/tab] There were a couple things of interest that happened in early spring. The first Redcap came to the Covenant, bringing correspondence for the magi, official business and well wishes from anxious parens. She was... interesting in her own unique way too, fascinating the covenfolk (the vlachs seemed comfortable with her, the slavs avoided her all-together). After an absence of two days, Anastaj returned from his ''mountain walk'' with a wooden doll house in hand. Slightly worried, he called Raven over and together went to the other side of the hill and after some conference picked a spot. He bade the Bonisagus to stand back and not to let other people near. Taking a baked clay tablet out of his robes, smooth and peppered with simmering flecks of some kind of metal, Anastaj started casting a ritual. Hours later, the folk were surprised by the new house that seemingly appeared out of thin air. It was a sturdy, two storey affair, with a porch and balcony going all around, a house from Raven's family. There were of course some issues. Though the house was made entirely out of wood, it seems several parts of were made out of balsa... as Asad found out when he tried the stairs to go to the upper floor. Moreover, dust was all over the place, along with mildew and wood shavings, Lubaba was not happy (she had issues with dust, started cleaning almost immediately, passing a broom and rugs to Raven). More importantly all the fireplaces and chimneys were made out of wood too! Anastaj quietly convened with the carpenter, who took it up himself to fix the stairs, doors and shutters with sturdy wood and nail replacements, but the fireplaces and kitchen counters would need a skill mason to be commissioned. The house would be ready in some months. Anastaj retired for the day clearly fatigued.
[tab][/tab] It was after nightfall a couple of days before the full moon, when the son of a teamster was almost run threw by the spear of a guard. The youth panicked by fear, with torn clothes and in a lather, had run out of breath without looking where he went trying to reach safety. It took some time to calm him enough to get his story. That day's caravan had reached the covenant, but a mule had strayed and got lost in the gorge. The youth was charged to find and bring it back, the packs of purchased equipment more valuable than the beast itself, full of expensive supplies for the Masters. He tracked the mule deep into the Gorge but it was past sunset when he found the carcass at the foot of the Towers. And there was a infernal beast eating the remains. The youth described a foul creature of claws and teeth, worthy of a nightmare story, he panicked when the beast seemed to spot him and fled. He got lost in the gorge, swearing there were creatures hounding and hunting him for his flesh. White as sheet, the ordeal clearly drove him near madness.
[tab][/tab] There is worry all around. The more experienced of the covenfolk know that the youth obviously exaggerates, tall tales as an excuse of him not finding the mule. Yet there is fear even in their eyes, fables told to frighten young children are sometimes cautionary warnings for grown ups. They know that they must find the mule and bring whatever remains back, but they are hesitant to start a search in the night. They are also hesitant to bring this to the magi's attention, surely they would not be pleased being bothered about beasts of burden. Normally such problems would be brought to Dimitris, but the henchman is in Ioannina seeking mason specialists for the covenant's buildings. In their dilemma, they instead bring this issue to the resident Companions, and literally drop it in their collective lap. Should they go search for the mule, and the important packs, with the moon rise? Should they wait for dawn? Or should they seek the counsel of Magi? This is now your decision....

Maia has been staying at the Covenant for a few days already. If it's at night, this is when she's most active; she's always practicing her Craft: Sculpting, usually with a block of wood, perhaps content to share some quiet time near a fire with the coven folk, drink some beer or wine. She's stocky, of dark complexion, with dark long tresses that are loosening by the minute despite solid knots, and generally clad in more clothing than is strictly necessary. Her eyes reflect more light than seems natural, and even in the darkness one can glimpse golden flecks in them.
She will call out to the youth in Romaic Greek or Aromanian as necessary, and inquire somewhat jocularly: "Hey! Hey, the Olympian! An infernal beast with claws and teeth...so a wolf or maybe a bear? Why don't you sit and calm down, and tell your tale, and then maybe we can sift the Devil from the details."

Sir Georgios gets up and listens to the story, watching over Maia's shoulder. When the is finished, he takes charge, and says with a firm voice: «I am sure we can look into this. No problem. You need to come with us, lad, and show us the way. Tell you, go get your cousins and pack some torches and a lantern, and join us outside straight away. How far is it?» Making sure that it is not so far that they need further provisions and equipment, he rushes the boy out, and turns to Maia and Miklos. «What do you think? Is it real or just a tale?»

He listens attentively to any suggestions from the companions, especially from Maia. You get the impression that he is looking down at the urban thief, even though he does not say in so many words. When all ideas are heard and arrangements agreed, he goes into his own room. When he returns, he wears full battle gear, with chain mail, knife and mace in his belt, and a longbow in hand. He rushes through the main room. In the court yard, he stops briefly to shout an order to one of the shield grogs, and ten he enters the stables.

When the group assembles outside, he appears with two horses, the war horse, and a second horse carrying the lance and longbow. He hands the reins to the teamster, «hey, lead these». Then he turns to Maia, and says «excuse me, milady, I won't be a minute», and continues to edge of the Aegis to pray in front of the wooden cross. It takes a little longer than the group appreciates, but he does return in high spirit. Looking the teamsters and shield grog(s) over, he says «I think we are ready to go. Agree? Maia? Miklo?»

Miklos listens intently to the story from the young man and the general conversation around the issue from those present. He says little until Sir Georgios springs in to action. He asks "do you think to lead us this night sir knight?". There is no inflection in his tone, simply a question. Whatever the answer he enters the barracks and quickly emerges dressed in full metal reinforced leather covered in small, bulging pouches. he has two daggers on his belt and a length of thin silk rope slung across his torso. He refuses a horse and travels on foot.

«Absolutely. The Lord shall be watching over us, even in the darkest hour. Do not fear, my friends,»

When the crowd has gathered, there is some mumbling of fear among the teamsters, but sir Georgios mounts his horse and makes a rallying speech addressing primarily the teamsters. «You have heard the story about the mule and the ferocious attack, but I tell you, fear not the creatures of the night, because we walk with the Lord. He has given us this important task, to recover the load if not the mule, and he would not have done so if we were not up to it, if not each and every one of you be up to the task. So trust Him, and trust me, His humble servant, and lets' go into the night and return with glory.» The knight's words are full of confidence. Although his appearance is scary, with the scar and without the ear, his words are inspirational and speaks directly to the teamsters. The scar is evidence of an experience which may be worth trusting.

[tab][/tab]The youth, Kostas son of a teamster, is clearly shaken more than he can bear, white as sheet. There are concerned covenfolk around him including his father, trying to get a sense what he is saying, putting some watered wine in his hands to calm him. Maia's attempt to levity and calming the folks was not successful, earning her some annoyed looks from the father. Slowly the youth spells out in a trembling voice his ordeal, his search for the mule in the dying light, finding that beast and his mad run in the darkness. His disjointed story and confusing comments clearly show that Kostas is indeed terrified of whatever happened out there. He will not go back out again, and his father puts a protective arm around him, glaring at people. Soon the women take him away to get him to sleep with some poppy syrup.
[tab][/tab] During his recount one of the elderly servants, a slav woman by the name Tasha, interrupted the youth when he was describing the beast ''Its eyes, did you see its eyes?'' she asked. The youth shook his head, said that it had long black hair covering its face. Tasha crossed herself and muttered. Later, once most of the women folk and Kostas had left, someone asked her if she knows what that thing is. ''Aye...'' she says in broken greek, crossing herself again ''… a dark one, a slippery one, one of the telonia. They never go alone, where there is one there is a hoard. But they will not cross water, no they wont'' she trails off. What else she says is bits and pieces from old folklore, mostly contradictions.
[tab][/tab] The companions make their preparations and sir Giorgos gives his ''rousing'' speech, trying to put some steel back in the spines of folk. One of the teamsters raises his hand timidly ''Em...your Lordship. I do not think its wise to take the horse out in the night... no light to see'' mumbles, and a friend pokes him with an elbow to shut him up. Taking some torches your small party starts going downhill, Arni's scout taking the lead to find the tracks of the mule near where it got lost. It is a weird torch-lit procession, with the almost full moon rising in the east, some people wandering if the lights might actually make them more of a target than not.
[tab][/tab] Save for the ever present gurgle of the river and the mournful cries of night birds, a bad omen, the gorge is silent. Moonlight bathes the impressive Towers above you, enough so that you could see the outlines of trees and rocks in blue. Just as the path reaches the small church meadow, the scout points to the east and further into the gorge ''It went that way'', he follows the barely discernible tracks of the panicked beast, leaving the weird meadow and springs behind. Soon you reach a point between the two springs where water once more runs, albeit in shallow volume. The scout points ''it went across, on the other side''....

(For reference 2 teamsters, 1 scout, 1 guard and the three companions. A party of 7)

Maia looks at Georgios earnestly. "Ser Knight wants to ride into the night? The moon is near full, so there's more light than usual, but it still is dark as a wolf's maw! As like to see the rocks you dash your head in when you take a tumble as you are to see the imagined beast creeping in the defile! I do not mind the dark, and if I do not go, I am as like to be blamed for anything that happens. But I'll walk, thank you very much, think your mount will be most useful to carry the equipment, really."

After she sees both Miklos and ser Georgios suit up, she whispers angrily at the knight. "You go fully armed, giving all credit to the boy, and scaring the others, making a speech! I would have counseled low-key and stealth, whether there's an infernal beast or no!"
More calmly, but still very quietly. We will need ropes, perhaps another mule, and torches, if nothing else to scare off any carrion eaters. Do you have a long spear or two? That's how you fight big animals, else make a pit or poison their food. I will go change, please wait." she strides off.

Returns, looking much the same (but with arms and armor on). To the teamster's son: Boy, I know you say you saw what you saw, and your fear is real enough ([size=150]Folk Ken[/size] to be sure), but we need you to lead us back. Look, there's the big knight with the big sword, clad in his faith. And there's Miklos, you want him on your side in a fight, he looks tough, don't he? Stick near me, and I won't let you stray, ok?

She looks at Miklos and ser Giorgios : I can lead the way if you follow, you good with that? If there's fighting to be done or skulking, we can switch. Yeah? And may God bless us all.

Telonia, what's that? (Has both Faerie and Magic Lore, will speak to the woman for a moment)

The knight looks at Maia, a little bit annoyed but his voice is calm: «But of course, lady Maia, we shall use stealth when we leave the covenant, but surely, it is not from the people inside it that we need to hide. And thank you for the advice, but please don't worry. I shall ride only as long as the path is good and it safe to do so.»

Then he looks towards the guard and the scout, scrutinising their equipment, and shouts, «do we have any long spears in the armoury? Lady Maia is right, it is the right weapon tonight. If there are plenty, we can use a few spares.»

Then he steps back, awaiting the response from the grogs. If they return with spears, he makes sure Maia gets one, and asks Miklos if he can handle one. Any spares are strapped to the pack horse. Finally he steps back, watching for Maia to take the lead.

Miklos responds to the knight "I have no skill with spear or other such weapons as combat is a last resort for me. When I do fight it is close and quick, then escape is the best option. If I must strike it is best from the shadows".

He does not expect a positive response from his noble companion but watches Maia for any reaction.

The knight does not seem surprised, his reaction is completely neutral, but he asks «do you have any missile weapons? Bow, maybe?» There is presumption in his voice, he is merely assessing the capabilities of the companions.

Mikilos replies "Again I have no skill with such things, my skills are those of movement and retrieval not war."

«Ah. In that case, you should take a spear. If we are up against something big, you use it to fend it off. Keep it between you and the beast, and support it against the ground. Running is not always a bad idea, but not always possible either.»

Sorry, assuming that the grogs found some spears. If they didn't, please cancel this dialogue.

Ha! Ser Giorgios, I am a lady but not a Lady, if you take my meaning. Thanks for the compliment!
Maia smiles at Miklos's words, That is just as well, as we are to move, find and retrieve!
To Georgios, in a low voice: Ser Knight, I can use a sword without puncturing myself too often, but it might be best to use my bow, and keep clear of gnashing teeth. What is the measure of these men, do you think they can handle the spears? she points at the grogs.

Sir Georgios answers Maia whispers, lowering his voice even further, «I have not seen them in battle, so I do not know. They do well enough in general, and I trust that they will choose the right weapon for the situation as it arises. The technique for using a long spear against a huge beast is relatively simple. You don't wield the weapon, but trust the beast to wield itself, so to speak. If that's what we are up against, the long spear is, as you said, the right weapon even for those more skilled with a sword or axe. Same for you, I agree that you rely on your bow first and foremost, but please be prepared to use the spear if the situation dictates it.»

[tab][/tab] Maia's attempt to calmed down the boy had failed and the father does not want his son out there tonight, has he not suffered enough. The red cap understands and backs down, the youth is clearly too shaken to be of any help. Instead she talks to old Tasha about Telonia. It seems they are creatures of the fae, dark and twisted, living in caves and coming out to deal mayhem and murder (for more information, look here, third posting under fae realm).
[tab][/tab] Under the direction of sir Georgios the guard quickly goes to the barracks and returns with an armful of short spears tipped with iron heads. Seems all the guards are using spears and are familiar with them. Sturdy hafts with somewhat polished tips, these are standard spears used by most inexperienced army recruits. The guard quickly passes the spears around. The teamsters take them apprehensively, like being handed a dead snake, while the scout looks at it bemusedly and ties it on his back like a javelin. He moves competently to the fore to track, speaking very little greek as he is a northern slav.

Maia again approaches Ser Giorgios: "Ser, these telonia Tasha mentioned...the lore says they loathe the sight of the Lapatos Cross. God is indeed on our side, as you said, but we are ourselves on the wrong side of the mountain!" She laughs at this, but sobers quickly "They cannot cross water, and there are streams, fordable streams nearby. We must be prepared to find a spot to defend until the dawn arrives. If the lore is correct. she finishes grimly. If these things are about, we cannot afford to form a hedge of spears, they may simply surround us, and sally forth from holes in the ground. I... should stop talking now or I might just turn back, I could use a drink! Maia grips Ser Giorgios gauntlet tightly for a moment, as if to reassure herself, and hastily moves to the front of the line to consult with the scout, she can see perfectly in the dark.

«Hmm. Maia», sir Georgios asks, «is it the holy cross these telonia fear, or is it just the site at Lapatos?»

Sir Georgios rides over to the pack horse and opens one of the packs, under the pile of spear. Fumbling a bit he draws out a crucifix the size of a shortsword. It is nothing fancy, but the symbolism is clear. He hands it to one of the teamsters. «Hey, carry this, and hold it high.»

Then he returns to Maia. «We are going to be fine. You know these fords, right? Please, halt us and point out the key points we should aim for if we need to flee. We'll stop and agree on meeting points when we get there.»

If this is too much to find in the pack, the teamster is sent to pull out the make-shift cross at the Aegis boundary instead. SG call :slight_smile:

The knight turns towards Miklos again, looking him over. Does he accept the spear offered him, or not? «Are you ready?» he asks, «It will be good to have a watchman at the back. Will you take that role? Is that ok?» He watches carefully for the answer, not only the spoken words, and then he turns to Maia and the scout, «Maia and Bogdan [*] is there anything else you need to check, before we go? Have you got the directions you need from the teamsters?»

Sir Georgios tries to get the party in order, so that they can leave. He presents the plan first as a proposal and is open to suggestions, especially from Maia. In front is Maia and Bogdan, as they know the way. As long as the terrain is open and it is possible to ride past people on the track, he places himself in the middle, together with the shield grog. Behind him are the two teamsters, one with the pack horse and one with the cross, and finally Miklos as rear watchman. «We will stop and regroup when the terrain changes and we can no longer pass each other on the path,» he says, «and we should stop and take account before we cross running water as well. OK?»

[*] That's the Slavic shield scout. To difficult to write without a name for him ...

Miklos refuses the spear "It will get in my way". He indicates his acceptance when asked to bring up the rear of the party with a simple nod.

[tab][/tab] Despite the advice of the teamsters, sir Georgios rides his charger while his pack horse is in the care of the animal handlers. Shorts spears and cross are readily passed around. One teamster literally hugs the cross as protection, while the other leads the pack horse. The guardsman purses his lips and passes a torch to Miklos while he keeps another on his shield hand, the takes position next to the knights horse so that it won't fumble in the dark and break its legs. The scout and Maia are up front, it seems neither needs or wants any light, while at the rear Miklos is keeping watch (though he sees very little of the front because of the torches).
[tab][/tab] Between the two springs, the river has overflowed but it is still fordable. The scout has tracked the mule over the other side, easily finding the tracks of its passage as the youth had said. He fords the river, the freezing water reaching his thighs but reaches on the other bank safely. Looking around he starts going into the brush and uphill, towards the base of the Towers and away from the river. It seems the animal fled towards the barely perceived path that exists at the bottom of the massif and headed deeper into the gorge. The rising moon throws the massive stone walls into blue and silver hues, while the trees (conifers and early leafing deciduous) cast long, deep shadows into the night. A lone wolf howls in the distance. The party moves on...