A disruption in the mail

it is spring of 1202 when a redcap arrives in Flam, months ahead of when he is expected. along with what few messages he has brought he has news- from house Mercere.
"The pope has issued a bull so that all ships from the Holy Roman Empire traveling the Baltic must now go through Riga, which is going to cause a great deal of disruption to our regular mail routes. The house has authorized investment in alternative forms of transportation, if you know of any that are available, but still not mercere portals."

Balder has removed the leather apron which he usually wears in his lab seasons, to receive the rare guest. He wears the posh blue over-tunic he uses for special occasions, over brown and grey woolen clothing typical for the villagers. Everything is clean and good quality though. Balder himself is in his thirties, charming and clean-shaven, with thick blonde hair, just diminishing a little around the temples. A little gull sits on his shoulder.

He warmly greets the redcap, very grateful for the rare visit.

«Well, he says. If you pass through here on a regular basis, we might be able to arrange passage, going North around the Baltic Sea, if need be. It should only take a day or two. I do not know, however, which destinations you are looking to serve. The legendary ship of the Ashlad has come into the covenant's possession, and it travels as well on land as on sea, and through the air as well. I don't think we can solve all the challenges, but we can arrange a couple of speedy hops.»

He turns to Hugh, hesitating, «maybe ... what do you think? Are there other ways to help?»

Hugh has taken to wearing a robe made of bear fur, but was happy to drop what he was doing for change of pace when he heard of the visitor. He listens, then says,

"Well, I have a way to travel long distances quickly through the fae realm, I can take people with me but it's not completely risk-free. It's faster than the ship, but no safer, and maybe less practical. But... wouldn't it be simpler to just have items made for a couple of particular couriers? If you made the items specifically for them, they would be safe to use. Something like boots with a pocket in them, and you could put a bit of stone in the pocket and... I don't know... click the heels or something, and the boots would transport you to where the stone came from? Then you could just collect Connections to each of the covenants you visit, and... problem solved, right?"

"Potentially, but having the boots made will take time and Vis, and we have been asked to look for more economical, or at the least more immediately available answers. Getting through Norway, for example, would be no more trouble than before, but getting from the Rhine to Norway has just become infinitely more complicated, and this bull has taken us all by surprise. It appears that the bull was issued to support some group known as the Linovian Brotherhood of the Sword, which intends to go crusading against pagans in Linovia, and since it seems to us the outcome of such an enterprise is likely to destroy magical resources we decided it was better to eschew such a holy order rather than try and operate under their noses. Commercial ships that we have used for convenient transport however, are therefore no longer available. There are a number of ways to rectify the problem, but the time and cost to do so are issues we are trying to reduce."

«Are you going through Norway?» asks Balder with surprise. «I thought we were the only covenant here, and our fastest route is surely by ship to Bjørgvin and the South to Hamburg or the Netherlands.»

Illugi, a tall and solid man with disheveled blonde hair and beard he has not cut since the beginning of winter comes in from the brisk Spring weather. "What's this I hear about the Redcap coming early? Are we a Covenant of the Rhine now?" he says, laughing at his own joke.

"Sweden and Norway are a single circuit, I was taking a trip with a merchant into Sweden and traversing the two lands."

Hugh says, "So you hit Sweden before you come here, hence the need to go through the Baltic? I can make a pathway from any point to Durenmar, and from Durenmar to a point - though it's safer if I've been to the place I'm going to before, and it sounds like you may not want to start your circuit from here? But I will need to travel along with whomever is taking the trip."

"I can adjust my route to start from anywhere easily enough, but I will need to start in the Rhine, which could be an issue if you need to travel with me, or ca you travel with me once and set up a route I can follow?" He thinks about that for a second then adds " and would anyone else be able to follow it? We wouldn't want to set up some path where those Jotun mages might raid the Rhine or something."

"I can take you, or anyone, from here to Durenmar, and I can take you back here by the same path. We would need to pre-arrange a time for me to come pick you up from the Rhine, though. Nobody else would be able to follow the path. It would be outside the Durenmar Aegis, anyway."

«If I understand you correctly, you go through Sweden and Norway mainly over land? Is that right? That's an arduous journey.

«I think there are several ways to connect Flåm to the Rhine. Firstly, there is Hugh's approach. with which I am not familiar. Secondly, there is the mundane ships. You can travel with our timber vessels between Bjørgvin and Flåm, and from Bjørgvin there are all the stockfish vessels across the North Sea to the continent. Possibly, we could let our ships go all the way; I am not sure. Anyway, it can't be too hard to find passage. Thirdly, we have the Ashlad's ship, which is available most of the time, and which can almost match Hugh's speeds.

«If you want a trial run, you can have your pick for your onward journey. Sorry, Hugh, I am making assumptions about your time too. Is it OK?»

"I don't mind going back and forth to Durenmar at all. For the rest of the journey, I would have to essentially take the route with him, at least the first time. I'd need to know more about the stops, how many, where, etc."

«Well, what do you think, Redcap Friend¹? Worth putting it to a trial run?» asks Balder. «No need to decide just yet, of course. I hope you will be our guest for a couple of days, at least, before you depart.»

¹ Balder would have used his name if he did not prefer to go anonymous.

"I think, while your covenant persists, which is always a caveat in Novgorod, I can end my circuit here and have a sure way back to Duernmar, or perhaps to a mercer outpost if that is equally convenient. I still have a ways to go that I can check for ways to get to the tribunal, though I suspect I will need to find that outside the tribunal. At worst I may need to pick up an arcane connection to where I should now begin and ask someone to fix it for me and pick up an item enchanted with leap of the homecoming. Expensive, but always an option. I will try and finish my voyages here so I can try this fairie road back, it does at least sound secure, unless from hostile faeries."

«Very well,» says Balder. «While we are speaking of this, two questions if you don't mind. Firstly, could you give us an overview of the covenants in this area; those that do not want to remain secret that is. I am interested in those on the coast of the Baltic Sea and of the Rhine towards the North Sea, as well as anything in Scandinavia. Secondly, do you have a route to Frostmourn? I know it might be lost, but I suspect we share some interests with them.»

"Frostmourne was a different circuit, though that would likely be affected as well. There is Sinus Wodinis in Norway, south of here on the east coast. There is a covenant of the Uplands, though I'm not sure how much longer they will hold on, and a Jerbiton Covenant of Breman, in Vastergottland, Sweden. I'm sure they have a reason for the name, but I never asked."

«I see. Thanks. Are there any covenants in Denmark?»

"Not that have made themselves known. To be fair sometimes a covenant gets set up and dies in Novgorod without ever realizing how to register with the redcaps."

«Yeah, I know. Our parentes stayed here for four decades, I think before they made themselves known.
Do you know if Frostmourn has been visited since the tribunal? I should probably send them a letter, but if the redcaps have trouble getting there, I would be happy to assist with the ship of the Ashlad.»

"Last I heard Frostmourne could not be found, I don't know if it went into a regio or was buried by snow, but we are still awaiting news as well, and at a particularly inopportune time, given this situation."