Birds of a Flock: Nicholas

This is a side-story for eldarin

[tab][/tab] And there it was, his new home. After hours of traveling through the mountain passes in the cold autumnal wind, Nicholas finally arrived at Meru Mudi, the Rotunda now in front of him, nestled between two cliff-sides. Frankly, it wasn't much to look at, he expected some kind rustic castle or at least a fortified manor. This wasn't really a place for a falconer. What use would these people have of his skills? Yet hired he was. He has been searching for a job, gradually moving western all the time, what with the war in the east, until at Ioannina he was approached by a factor who arranged a meeting with a potential patron. Maniaces expected a noble or local gentry. He got Anastaj instead, a weird looking ascetic. He barely asked him about his trade, his birds or what he needs to train and raise them. Just some probing questions about his past, his thoughts in a multitude of things (he never thought about; like what is the meaning of slavery and is the master responsible for his birds actions), if he would like to live in the mountains, and off he goes hired! Now, here, he started having some second thoughts...
[tab][/tab] Anastaj hurriedly showed him around ( more like a wave of hands pointing stuff, don't do this, don't' go there) and then he foisted him to a dark looking man, Dimitrios. He seemed to be control here, like a scenechal or steward, and he patiently explained what this place was, a 'retreat for learned men and special people'. He showed him around, but bluntly told him that for this winter at least, he and his birds would have to do with an indoors chamber, there was little room to house them. As for later... the masters would decide. There could be room for a pigeon coop and mews on the rotunda, but some magi (really? Magi? Wizards with pointy hats?) had their eyes on it. Those sages were weird indeed, there was even a woman called Raven! That first week it was apparent Nicholas had nothing to do, except take care of his birds.
[tab][/tab] The land was lovely though. This high in the mountains was eagle country. All round the valleys and dells, there was prey and room for falcons and hawks, and even though winter was approaching, the migratory birds have left and game was scarce, this countryside was alluring in all its reds and yellows of Autumn. The gorge especially was a hidden paradise, a perfect place to live and fly and hunt, especially for ravens. There were none though. Only mountain crows lived here, smaller, faster and nastier than ravens, with a yellow beak and eyes and a shrill cry, always moving in mobs.
[tab][/tab]Kissa, his raven, warned him about them. He warned him about the gorge...and the mountain...and this place. She was full of warnings but no specifics. There was something strange to them all. The mountain should be avoided, it felt eerie and evil. The gorge was trouble. One could easily get lost, it was crowded by many strange things, she said. And this place where he now chose to live... it felt odd too. [i]Kissa[/i has decided to avoid it, she flew way up the cliffs and made her home there, meters above the Rotunda. Nicholas worries how she will survive the winter.
[tab][/tab] With time in his hands, he can stroll and explore and snoop around. Or maybe he could over to help with something, anything. Or maybe not... he's seen people sweat to bring huge barrels of water up the rotunda twice this week, that looks a pain. Maybe he could fly about....

Nicholas does his best to remember what he should and what he shouldn't do, where he ought to go and where he must not go. While walking around Nicholas will have an eye for any animals he might see (EDIT: and greets them using Animal Ken).

When it comes to the indoor chambers Nicholas gets quite disappointed - what do they want his services for if they lock away the birds... But Nicholas is far too insecure to show that off. An attentive watcher might still take notice.
"As you say master Dimitrios. Who will show me the chamber? I'll try to make the best out of it. A dry and warm place is most important for this time of the year in the end."

Dimitrios mentioning the top of the rotunda lightens the mood again.
"Am I allowed to inspect the top of the rotunda? I better ought to have plans, should the masters decide for a mew..."

When Dimitrios finished showing Nicholas around he goes off to inspect the chamber to see what he needs to organize for the bird(s).
"Thank you for your time master Dimitrios. I'll see to my room and birds now - if you allow. How can be of help if the animals are set? Is there any lifestock

[i]If he is allowed, the next thing is to get a impression of the top of the rotunda.
Nicholas will avoid the magi unless anyone approaches him.

He will certainly have a look for Kissa, where she is and that she is well. Presumably Nicholas is going to change into Raven form and fly searching for Kissa. If he wasn't allowed to climb the rotunda, he will at least have a look from birds perspective.

"Kissa, are you sure? It's going to be winter soon. You knew down there... it is sorcerers living there... Not the best room for now, but it's going to be warm and dry... Come back with me. When spring comes we might get a better place or you could still come here.

If he sees Arni and relates him to the Eagle he might have seen before or after, this would actually be quite different.

Nicholas shyly approaches Arni.
Excuse me master... Was that you whom I have seen flying? ...

[i]Given there is no request to give a helping hand Nicholas will explore the surroundings of the covenant in raven form and accompanied by Kissa in the first week.

If there is nothing to do by the end of the week Nicholas will approach Dimitrios. [/i]
Master Dimitrios. If you have a moment? I wonder if you have the right to hunt in the surrounding mountains and valleys? I could offer to add some game to the stocks for winter. For small game I could go with my birds alone, for larger game I would probably need a helping hand for carrying.

If he sees Anastaj at some point, he will shyly approach him.
Master Anastaj, do you have a moment? ... Please excuse the interruption, you probably have more important things to do... I wonder what tasks you will have for me. There is apparently no way to establish a mew at the moment and winter is anyhow approaching...

[tab][/tab] There are few wild animals around this place, mostly small birds and lizards. It is like larger ones avoid it. From the domesticated side, there are mules and a couple of horses in stalls, plus one or two donkeys. The mules are stoic, the donkeys hard headed and from the two horses belonging to a knight, the warhorse is cultured and fierce, the draft horse is scared and antisocial for some reason. A couple of goats for milk and the large molossus dog of the blacksmith round up the count. The women in the rotunda want a chicken coop but they have not started on it yet, something about the carpenter being very busy with the demands of the masters. There is also a weird creature that follows Raven around.

[tab][/tab] Right off the bat, Dimitrios insists not to be called master, just his name. The birds are certainly not locked away, Nicholas should bring them out regularly. He will just have to house them temporarily in one of the empty spaces that will house laboratories (chose any free one on the first or second floor). The only places to avoid are the laboratories of the magi and the council rooms. Never enter the rooms of the masters. The knight usually sleeps at the council chambers. Also, it would probably be a good idea to avoid the house where Raven has her muslim family and the newly build workshop down the path. The rotunda top is open to him.
[tab][/tab] Hunting is free, this area is not under any nobleman's jurisdiction. Small game for the pot is fine, larger game... he should be most careful. There are reasons why people do not hunt big game in these mountains. Most of time, big game hunts them, he warns mysteriously. He also cautions about the drakoi in the mountain top, the telonia, the harpies and other dangers in the area.

[tab][/tab] Kissa is quite wary of the place and refuses to stay long there, let alone roost, for now. She will choose a spot high on the cliffs for this winter, will probably gather soft down and cloth to make herself a warm place.

[tab][/tab] Nicholas catches Anastaj early on a Friday when he gets ready to leave for his customary two day stroll up the mountain. He stares in blank incomprehension when the falconer talks to him, like he does not even remember him. With a slack open mouth he stares at the young man too long, giving the uncomfortable impression he will start drooling soon. Then he shakes his head with vigor and waves his hand in the negative ''Mews? Just talk to Dimitrios'' and turns his back. Just as suddenly he stops and half turns ''No, you know what? Talk to Aristocles, yes. And also to Arni and Pavo, those two know about birds'' he nods once, then leaves, muttering under his breath.

Apparently, there is no room free in the second floor and only 1γ in the first. I suppose Dimitrios sent Nicholas there to care for the bird(s).

After bringing the bird(s) there, Nicholas will climb to the roof and make up some rough plans if and how the mews would fit up here. How many birds could be accommodated, would there be space for a dove cote? Would it be made warm enough for winter?

After that he will look for Kissa and explore the surrounding a bit as was already stated above.

Thoughts Nicholas has while listening to Dimitrios: Big game as predator, drakoi, telonia, harpies... What is he talking about... They are all myths, aren't they? On the other hand, this is home to sorcerers and Kissa's strange behavior...
Anyways, if small game is preferred Nicholas will hopefully find a good spot to go hawking for small game during the exploration. He'll take his bird(s) for a hunt then and deliver the results to the cooks. Hawking Per(1)+Falconry (4)+1D10 = [6] = 6 =11 (10–12 The hawk attacks with a +1 bonus to its attack roll. LoM58 - not sure if you wanted to change ease factors? In case you want more rolls 1D10 = [10] = 10, 1D10 = [10] = 10, 1D10 = [7] = 7)

After his conversation with Anastaj he will uneasily approach the mentioned magi. If he gets all three together all the better, if not I suppose it will be Pavo (non of the three has gentle gift, Pavo seems to be the most likable for Pre).
"Master(s)... Please excuse me... Anastaj hired me... I am Nicholas, the falconer..., he sent me to talk to you about building up a mew for this place..."

OOC My fault. Still have to get used to asynchronous story telling and the freedom one has to take to tell part of the story for other people's characters; Let's assume Nicholas does indeed get all three mages, approaches and addresses all of them.

[tab][/tab] Nicholas returns from the hunt with a brace of quails. It was not a good day, he tore his tunic in some brambles, scraped his knee and one of his hawks got injured and is now limping a bit. (difficulty would be two lower so thats +2 to the birds attack. The rest of those rolls though, thats one botch there ><)

[tab][/tab] Later he and his bird travel outside the covenant for a flight over the area, to see what the lay of the land is. Using the magic feather provided, he changes into the shape of a raven and together the two black birds take flight. The mountain air is crisp and clear, with little clouds overhead and the first cold nips of winter blowing irregularly. The gorge is under them, two rivers flowing in different directions, their backs full with autumnal rainwaters churning towards their destinations. Most trees along the banks have shed their leaves or are in the process of doing to, except some towering sycamore trees, while the few conifers lining the edge of the gorge still retain their needles, making two slight green bands along the way. Despite the slowing of life, this is a vibrant place, full of late autumn plants and few animals.
[tab][/tab] Starting with the south side and following the lesser river, the gorge looks more like a straight wound in the earth. The western slopes are lower riddles with multiple smaller, heavily forested crags, all of them in shadow, topping up a steep, sloped and arid heath of a mountain. This is goat country with a few villages and lots of small game, ideal place for ravens and crows, though you can see none. The eastern side is more rugged and quite higher, barren of trees except in the lower reaches. Shale, loose rocks and rubble accumulates at the feet of the escarpments, and apart from several small crags and one larger one, it presents a long, continuous wall of the massif bracketing the gorge. On the other side its hill country, with various smaller gorges and cliffs where the rivers flow through, doted with several villages, either in the lower forests or clinging high on the cliff sides of the mountain.
[tab][/tab] On the return flight, the pair passes over one such village, Tsepelovo the largest one in that area, hovering high over the grey slated roofs. The wind is unpredictable on the fly over the southern branch of the massif, a lower arm formed by a deep split in Tymfi, a barren alpine place where the southern villager bring their goats to feed. It is while passing over this mountain that Kissa cries a warning heading into the crag beyond. This deep chasm that separates the south from Astraka is heavily wooded on the bottom with a massive cliff front on the northern side, filled with ledges idea for roosting. Here you meet a murder of alpine crows flying high over their nesting ground. These are smaller than ravens, faster, leaner and with different calls than normal crows. Yellow beaked and black eyed, their shrill cries bounce on the canyon walls and echo in distress, while the swarm gather to defend its territory. Clearly these birds are unfriendly for some reason, and passing close to their area provokes an immediate reaction. Kissa veers off with a cry and Nicholas soon follows, the swarm angrily chasing them off. It is clear that they are fending off intruders from their territory, but it is also strange. Their 'language' indicates some kind of mob mentality, an urge to drive off the interlopers off, they react too quickly and savagely, ready to kill despite the difference in sizes. The pair manage to escape and move on, wary to avoid this place again.
[tab][/tab] The northern part of the Vikos gorge is more savage and rugged. The northern river is more full bodied and larger, meandering through rocky passages and looping through outcrops, hedged high on both sided by stone walls. Yet this country is less wild in temperament with several settlements and small villages prospering. From above people look like tiny ants going on their busyness and getting ready for the harsh winter that is coming. And yet they pale to the majesty of the forest in autumn. The Towers in particular are imposing when seen from the west, the first snowfall having crested their tops in white. Despite the warning given, Nicholas decides to fly high up above the massive and have a look-sy. The climb is rough, with many unpredictable air currents buffeting the birds and nearly crushing them at the rocks (Please have a dex+athletics(flight) EF 9 roll). Not a good place to fly, yet a perfect place for predatory birds to make their nests. On the horizon an eagle makes its lonesome rounds over the alpine meadows to the north. Perhaps its sight distracted the falconer too much to react to the frantic warning calls of Kissa, when near the top out of nowhere came the mists.
[tab][/tab] They formed too fast out of the somewhat clear sky, rolling over the plateau and covering the whole top of the mountains in seconds. Despite the mild win, they did not disperse, rather they sprinted over the land, twisting into fantastic shapes with alarming speed. Nicholas was surprised and trying to escape got separated from Kissa, getting blow this way and that inside the rolling grayness. Getting out of the cloud is a dangerous endeavor with the mountain walls all around, the only safe way would be up. And yet these mists disorient and prey on the senses, making it very difficult to navigate. After some vain flapping, he manages to crash land on some rocks and huddle in misery, while the moist clouds blanket over everything. (Please do a dex+athletics (flying) EF 12, three botch dice).
[tab][/tab] Sight plays tricks inside the clouds. So does sound. Faintly he can hear things moving from somewhere ahead. Hooves on rocks, distorted bleating. A gust of wind disperses some of the mist, making those shapes barely visible on the other side of the slopes. Long haired, long horned goats in white, grey and patched hides graze on the plateau, oblivious of the dangerous mists. Nicholas can barely discern this weird, fey like creatures grazing in the distance, a group of about eight of them, then alarmed he makes a large form skulking above them in the rocks. As fast as it was revealed the vista is gone, the mists rolling in again cutting visibility to nothing. And yet echoes of the goats can distantly be heard for a while, until silence and the wind remain. After some time, hours or minutes you cannot say, most of the mists lift up. Nicholas finds himself on a precipice on the side of the mountain facing the high plateau, a barren empty place half covered in snow....

dex+athletics(flight) EF 9 roll: 1D10+2+6 = [1]+2+6 = 9 followed by 1D10+2+6 = [4]+2+6 = 12
Final result: [4*2]+2+6 = 16

dex+athletics (flying) EF 12, three botch dice: 1D10+2+6 = [1]+2+6 = 9 followed by 1D10+2+6 = [5]+2+6 = 13
Final result: [5*2]+2+6 = 18

After the hunt Nicholas will tend to the injured bird. (Int+Animal Handling? 0+2+1D10 = [2] = 2 final result 4)

Regarding the exploration...
Nicholas is concerned. Where is Kissa? Using Animal Ken: "KISSA?"

He'll wait a bit and listen carefully and quitely. (Per+Awareness+roll = 3+3+1D10 = [1] = 1 followed by 1D10 = [3] = 3=6. Final result: 12) Then, if there is nothing to hear or see, he will fly scouting for Kissa.

Where is the eagle? He might have seen Kissa.

[tab][/tab] The falcon is slightly injured, better not hunt with it for a week or two.

[tab][/tab] Nicholas crow cries echo on the sides of the mountain, calling for Kissa, but there is no response. Fear that the bird has crushed on the rugged mountain cliffs prods him to start scanning the area for the bird. There is no sign of the eagle, the goats or that looming shape anywhere, its like very single living thing got whisked away by the mists. Ten minutes of frantic searching later brings him to the western cliffs of the Towers. Below, he can see part the Konita valley way to the north, and the hearth-smoking village of Papigo on a hill near the base edge of the precipice. A crow call guides him to a stone outcrop where Kissa is calling for him. The two birds meet, with Kissa pecking him for being so foolish to not notice the change in weather. This is clearly not normal, she can feel it to the roots of her feathers. There is truth to the admonitions of the mountain people, you should avoid this place. Those mists are dangerous to the extreme, the winds currents can easily smash both of them to the rocks....
[tab][/tab] It is still some time till evening, and now the pair takes a leisurely flight up to the Alpine meadows. Even in snowy Autumn, these are lush with green moss and ice-cold streams. No herds are around, sheep only stay up here in summer, while its too late in season for goat herds. For a little while this looks like a pristine land of green and white and bubbling blue...

Yes Nicholas, what can I do for you specifically? Answers Aristocles

Master Anastaj ... he suggested I talk to you... I am, I am sorry if I interupted you.
We are late in the year ... I will do my best ... arrange some ad-hoc winter quarters.
If I should start ... start to build a mew early next year, we... I... we would do good to plan ahead.

There is one ... one excellent place for the birds. Nicholas shows up to the top of the retunda
It would need ... would need some preparation though.

Aristocles smiles at the obviously nervous young man and says "I believe Magus Arni has the room ear marked for his own lab in the near future. You best check with him if that leaves enough room for your mews up there. If so then go right ahead and talk to our carpenter. to get his time booked in for your project, just don't forget to check with Magus Arni first. Off you go then."

Nicholas is much relieved when he sees Kissa again.
KISSA! What was that? I am so glad you are well. I feared I would never see you again.


Now, really. What was that, I have so much more to learn.
Is there more than a bad feeling? Please teach me so I know myself.


Yes I know. You say I shouldn't be here at all. I shouldn't stay here, hence I shouldn't care. But don't you see... They want birds and I want to understand. Just think of it... My friends - if they still live - are craftsman, pages, squires... And I talk to animals... And a raven saved my life by making me flee home.

Nicholas enjoys the flight, simply follows Kissa and tries to be as alert as he can this time.

[tab][/tab] Kissa cows something about the unnatural mist. It seems it gathered too fast and was too targeted to be a completely natural event. She senses a will behind the comings and goings, and warns Nicholas to avoid the plateau as much he can. Besides, high mountain country is not a place for respectable birds. She listens to what the young man says. She cocks her head, you think too much. Life is worth living, tomorrow meal should not distract you from today's catch.
[tab][/tab] The bird starts flying towards the slopes of the alpine meadows, until you both reach the site of the Dragon lake. A beautiful lake of deep crystal water, almost round like an eye looking at the sky. Small wiggly forms swim at the edges, little newts that look like dragon offspring. Kissa lands on a rounded rock and preens her feathers, considering if the amphibians would make a good meal or if they are poisonous. Nicholas on the other hand marvels at the lake itself, though there is a feeling he is being watched by... something. Squinting does not help, but he thinks there is something there at the edge of his vision, a very difficult thing to do as a raven. After some time (and no meal for Kissa) you both fly to the north, down the mountain and into the Konita valley. Things are normal Autumn here, with several over wintering hawks out hunting for the last fat meal to tie them over. It is a good land....

With Animal Ken towards the hawks: "How is life... how is winter... here in the valley? I'd have a warm place and food to offer. Warm but small for this winter, more space for the next."

[OOC Nicholas offers shelter only for this winter if he believes there is indeed enough food and space.]

[tab][/tab] There is general surprise from each individual hawk on the fact that a raven communicates with them (usually they fly away). Also confusion. Most of the wild ones do not understand the concept you are describing, both because they are solitary birds and because they cannot fathom staying inside a cave and having meals brought to them. Obviously they like their freedom. Life is good, mates and prey is plentiful, few dangers and predators. Mountains to the north east are worse, many dangerous flying beasts. To the north and northwest , Ash Songbird rules, to the east and south Mist rules. No one holds claim on the valleys though...

Nicholas tries to get more information about the ash songbird, the mist and which parts exactly are not claimed by anyone.

"Good to hear you are doing well. Should that ever change you might be able to find me near the tower built by man. I am not going to put you in a cage.

Who is that Ash Songbird?


That mist has already struck me hard by surprise. Glad that I managed not to get smashed to the rock.


Me and Kissa are new to the area, I appreciate any help on how to survive... Like, where better not to go, what to look out for and what kind of prey to avoid...

[tab][/tab] Most Hawks are reluctant to chat while hunting, not wanting to lose the chance for one last fat meal before winter. Still Nicholas and Kissa glean some more information from their laconic answers:

[tab][/tab]- Avoid all the mountains, stay on the plains. Each mountain has lots of natural and unnatural hazards, and under the rule of one or more entities that do not like trespassers. Avoid the High plateaus, any of the alpine lakes and the Towers (though the alpine meadows and anywhere in sight of the blessed cross is relatively safe).

[tab][/tab]- Avoid mount Smolikas. Lots of nasty creatures there.

[tab][/tab]- The mountains to the north are under the kingdom of the Forest Lord Ash Songbird. It rules the Fir country (mostly on the other side of the mountains and on the eastern slopes), but still has a long reach. When pressed for more information the answers are confusing, only restating that its a Forest Lord...

[tab][/tab]- The Mist is jealous. She watches the mountain tops keenly and sends her minions without warning. She does not like anyone intruding and there are a lot of residents who worked her ire. The whole mountain is crowded, each side battling against the other, avoid it...

[tab][/tab]- Avoid the gorges. Vikos gorge is dangerous, too many things live there, trying to snare you with things that are not there and trick you. Aoos is worse, things there want to eat you...

[tab][/tab] Prey to avoid: Anything pure white, shimmering iridescent green or spotted with orange, yellow or red spots. Long haired goats. Things humans use. Weird creatures. Alpine newts, lizards and dragons. Songbirds if you are in fir forests.