1.3b Perama Caves

[tab][/tab][tab][/tab][tab][/tab]Perama Caves

Participants: Arni, Scylax, Miklos, Alexios Grogs: Whatever unfortunate, non-claustrophobic pleb you order to

[tab][/tab]Since word came from Anastaj's informant this past Summer that a new cave was found near Ioannina, some of the more adventurous of you wanted to go and take a look-see. Who knows what might be found there, magic, treasure, vis!The Vlach was not in favor of dragging his body through the wilderness just to enter a dark, smelly cavern, so he opted out and invited anyone who wanted to make the effort to go ahead, ''...and the folly on your head...'' you could hear him muttering about the hard heads of youth. So you need to make a team that will bravely (or brazenly) go and explore the caves near Perama village.
[tab][/tab] This is easier said than done though. Your first obstacle is organization. Someone must put all the supplies needed together (both for outside and inside the caves), bring trusted people who can handle themselves, expert spelunkers and nimble bodied warriors, organize and lead the search party, while at the same time keep everything as secret as you can. Companions are interested mainly about any treasure or precious metals and stones that might be found than magical stuff (for the covenant's income of course). The covenfolk as always is divided by racial profiles; Greeks have a glint in their eye and are readily supportive of the expedition (whether from adventure lust or greed you cannot say); Vlachs caution about weird caves. These mountains abound with them, and usually weird creatures have already laid claim to them. Ogres and Dragons are not that uncommon; Slavs are superstitiously worried about ghosts of dead explorers and deeply buried gates to the underworld from where nasty devils spawn. Well, you wont know until you search the cave, will you?....

Alexios begins preparations by gathering ropes and testing their strength by trying to lift barrels with them. As his muscles tense, you see that he has enough power to haul heavy siege machinery about, and can move quite a weight. Once he has tested good ropes and put the weaker ones to one side, he looks for other equipment that might be useful. If there are no nails or pitons handy, he will try and find a blacksmith to get a couple made in case of serious climbs inside the cave.

He will ask the magi "Sirs, do I need to bring my heaviest weaponry or shall we avoid the risks inside a cave?"

Scylax says to Alexios:

Avoidance is good! If we were to need what you carry, then perhaps we should simply retreat rather than, uh, risk being roasted in a narrow space. If this is part of your gear, and you feel you can traipse through the caves fairly freely, then by all means, do so. But there will be open flames (unless we have lamps?), ropes, slippery ground and tight squeezes. And bats, always with the bats! he says cheerily

At least I think so, been just to a few caves in my lifetime! I myself am less than athletic, so will leave the heavy lifting to the grogs (he names each one of them, Scylax makes an effort to meet the coven folk and learn about their lives).

A naffatun? Can you elucidate? To Alexios.

Is there someone with a bit of knowledge or experience about this place? To the grogs and Arni in general.

Arni does not look as if he is preparing to leave at all. He wears his daily, loose, brown cowl. Only addition is a waterskin hanging from his belt, next to the knife. When Scylax looks at him, he looks around at the grogs to see who is going to answer. When nobody does, he steps closer and whispers to Scylax only: «no, I be new to area. Caves seen in mountains, but you talk ... not of caves ... of tunnels and shafts. Deep underground. I never seen before.» He speaks very haltingly in something pretending to be Greek.

Arni has asked the scout/shield grog (equipped with shield and hand weapon, but probably better skilled as scout/ranger) to accompany them. He speaks slav, and communicates well with Arni.

Alexios replies, "A naffatun is one who works the fire siphons. These mighty weapons work well in siege warfare, and allowed us to clear tunnels threatening the imperial city. They have the advantage of being able to empty a tunnel with ease, but devour the air. They are also quite bulky and will limit the narrowness of the tunnel I can get through. If it is easier, I will use the axe - it's a useful weapon, and allows me to work with ropes quickly."

«So need extra air to use your weapon?» Arni asks with some difficulty, «I should able help with that. Need to improvise, but a magical draft down through tunnel, under ground must be possible.»

Miklos has his pouch covered armour and long length of silk rope slung across his torso. He says "Climbing is a speciality of mine, though not normally in cave systems I must admit. I should hopefully be a great help in this endeavour".

[tab][/tab] Your little party is gathering the provisions needed for this endeavour, securing them on a couple of pack mules. Alexios talks to the gruff blacksmith about mountaineering nails and pitons, the man looks at him uncomprehending. After some long explaining, the idea dawns to him but shakes his shaggy head in the negative a couple of time. These specialised items could be made, but it will take some time and a lot of tries without the knowledge to make them or a recipe. He makes it understood that he works with iron not steel, though he heard one of the masters does. Cocking his head to the side a bit, he goes and rummages into his supplies, coming back with eight long nails, the size of small pitons. They aren't ideal but its the best he has. He thinks a bit and reaches out, takes a small hammer from the wall behind him and extends it to Alexios. When the alchemist takes it though, he does not release it '' I want it back'' he growls to him, then gives it up.
[tab][/tab] Various ropes and cords are loaded onto the animals, and many torches, candles and rags. Some tents take a whole animal to be carried and dry foodstuff wrapped in oily paper stashed away. While the grogs busy themselves making sure whatever you need is taken care of, you go over what you know about this expedition. Perama is a tiny village not even three kilometres from the center of Ioannina. Its a small place dealing with fishing and some agriculture, situated on the east road between the lake and a medium, round hill. That hill is an oddity. From afar it looks like a bald dome with lots of vegetation on its base. Anastaj's informant said that some goat was lost near the base of the hill and while the people were looking for it, one of his relatives found a hole in the hill, protected by dense bushes and going straight down. Whether its a large cave or just a small depression he didn't know, and his relatives did not mention any of this to others (Anastaj paid to keep it that way). To reach the village it will take you about a day's travel from the covenant with some time spared to make your camp. It would be best to keep your endeavours low keyed and not make a fuss or disturb the villagers. ''Do not wake any dragons...or ogres...or infuriate any fae...'' Anastaj admonishes...

Arni watches the packing without a word, and looks with interest and curiosity at all the different things being packed, more or less strange and unexpected.
Once they start moving, he tags along, apparently entirely in his own thoughts. There are so many strange new Greek words to absorb ...

Alexios will walk alongside the animals, not being skilled at leading pack animals. He will keep a watch for anything along the path, and look to clear any obstacles. He has his axe at his belt if anything needs chopping away.

Miklos will keep a keen watch as they travel to take in the surroundings and watch for any signs of danger.

[tab][/tab] The teamsters start herding the mules carrying all the equipment downhill, taking the path out of the gorge to the north, and eventually west towards Aristi. The autumn morning is chilly, the loss of daylight hours felt this high in the mountains, but nature still flourishes; denizens of the area know that soon following the autumn rains a new, short greening season will take place. For now though the path out of the mountains is dusty after baking for the whole summer and the passing of your mules kicks up a cloud of particles obscuring vision and forcing those towards the back to use scarves to avoid irritation. Autumnal smells are soon overpowered by the smell of animal feces, sweat and dust, while in the background the burnt taste of ashes is in the air, peasants have started burning the chaff in the fields to prepare for October ploughing. It takes time to reach the former Imperial outpost and then the teamsters take the mules on the way towards Ioannina. The country road is seeing more travelers in this season going both ways, moving the harvest to storage, goods to villages and towns. You also see several army messengers and even a group of cavalry outriders going north towards Durres on galloping horses.
[tab][/tab] It takes most of the day traveling south towards Ioannina, passing through a lot of small villages in the thrall of autumn harvest and fairs. A midday meal is taken under a huge sycamore by the road, then you start again for the last part of today's journey. It is an hour before sunset when you see lake Pamvotis sprawling in the horizon. Slightly to your right, the town of Ioannina spreads on the coast of the placid lake, a vibrant place in the backwater that is Epirus. Behind the city proper, a forested hill shields it from the fields, with two castle citadels built on its slopes; the new one on the southern end, recently constructed with money from the rich refugees of the City. The northern one older, some say from the time of the blessed emperor Justinian, seeing renovations and upgrades for a siege. There are renovations on the walls of the town too, though you can see there are several houses and shacks outside them now. Instead of heading towards the town, your party takes the lesser traveled left branch of the road, the one that goes around the north part of the lake. Soon you arrive outside the small fishing village of Perama and you start putting your tents on a previously scouted meadow behind the weird looking hill, shielded from the village houses; no need to attract attention. Chill falls quickly, the humidity of the lake making it creep into bones much more easily, and the mourning cries of night birds start earlier each evening. Soon migratory birds will start their journey south, heavy rains will fall and then winter will close off the mountains making travel almost impossible. You have to finish this fast and discreetly. Tomorrow you are going to find the entrance to the cave and see what you can find. For now you will sleep under the stars and hope the weather holds.....

When they get to the road to Ioannina Miklos will announce that he will see what he can find out in the town as it is "his sort of place" and he will meet the party at Perama village in a few hours time. He will try to make connection with his contacts and see what the general news is and anything specific about the caves. Once he has gathered what information he can he will travel to the camp site at Perama.

Alexios starts pitching tents. He will volunteer to take the first watch and make sure nothing sneaks up on the camp while everyone sleeps.

As Miklos is leaving, Arni halts him. «Remember, don't give away any secrets. Anastaj has paid to hush it down. Let's not spill anything before we have seen it,» he says in Slav. «But good luck. All information you can get is great.»

Once they can see the walls of Ioannina in the distance, ,Arni shifts his attention to the surrounding, trying to recognise the landscape he has previously seen from the air. Occasionally, he strays off the path to get a better view, studying not only the hill for which they are headed, but also the lake and the hills across it. Probably, what he sees will only confirm what he has previously learnt, but he might get a closer view at the aura of the lake.

Scylax will occasionally wander off as well, he is fascinated by all, and seeks Auras/regiones/vis.

He confers occasionally with Arni in a low voice, not speaking slowly, despite the Bjornaer's poor Greek. "Sodales, did you by any chance learn (or maybe you can spont) illumination formulae? We do carry torches, but I am afraid even such basic charms are not in my repertoire, unless we locate a strong aura. I can aid us all in being able to see well under dim conditions, but in total darkness?" he trails off.
Cheerfully: In any case! I am endeavoring to discover and map the auras in the area, and if I happen to spot regio or two, perhaps we can explore it together. This knowledge might be useful for our little project of Meru Mudi.

«Il-loo-mee-nay-tion?» Arni asks, looking like a capital question mark. His current record, when it comes to Greek words, is two syllables. This is just way beyond him.

The other matter, in contrast, enthuses hime. «Explore auras,» he says with excitement, «but of course ... so many to see and so little time. You and I to Smolikas ... east of Tymfi ... in the spring, maybe?» Then he stops, «here and now ... what you make of lake? Big aura, no? What can be source?»

Ahh, I am so careless, please forgive me, I must learn Latin so that we can meet in the middle! You must think of me as a very poor host! More slowly, not wanting to give offense . I mean light, Creo Ignem. He gestures with an open hand, trying to mimic Palm of Flame.
As to the auras, Scylax waxes enthusiastically, once again speaking slightly too fast. Yes, vast auras everywhere! At least vis should be found in this hinterland with some ease; hopefully unclaimed! Slightly dubious grimace at that. Spring exploration sounds perfect, if our duties do not impede it! Although your magnificent gift of flight might make you impatient with my slow and mundane walking. More thoughtfully The Dragon Lake? Hmm, might be useful to remember the name, even if it proves false. A hostile creature of our Patron's stature, or a dragon, or a Faerie Queen even, uncontrolled, would prove disastrous for us. I am curious, but cautious, you see, but I agree that being proactive might serve us well. I must think on this, how best we may cooperate, still so green in my abilities! What do you counsel?

«Ah ... Creo Ignem, yes yes. Me do simple flame. No big light. I be sorry - need learn Greek ... very difficult.»

«Not worry. Me flew last spring. Next spring, want to see ground,» Arni says earnestly. «Why Dragonlake? Smolikas east of Dragonlake. Dragonlake well known ... ask shepherds ... or ask Anastaj. Smolikas is wild ... danger ... I think im-PURR-tant. Harpies guard it!» Then he stops short and smiles, «oh ... I ask ... this lake» he says and points at the lake behind Ioannina. «I studied it from air ... never seen ... so close.»

Ahh, you meant this lake nearby. If you wish we may approach it and observe more closely.

Scylax exclaims "Yes, I'd like to explore together! Count on me, sodales! We must plan, carefully. Wait, did you say Harpies? Could you, ahh, go into more detail? "