Chapter 0: The Trip of Ludovicus

(In which we will tell the short story of Ludovicus travelling to Fengheld.)

"Master, I believe that I have found what you were looking for!" Guiseppe's enthusiastic arrival in Ludovicus' most recent room makes the young Bonisagus spill some ink unto the letter he'd been scribing. Before he can berate his grog, the Venice-bred former thief continues. "But we need to hurry, 'cause the captain of the ship said they were leaving this very night!"

As the pair hurry up to pack what little belongings they had, Ludovicus reflects on the events of the last few weeks...

That letter, which had been passed around by the redcaps during Tribunal, had caught his attention. This had seemed like a good way to escape from Machmalius' anger at seeing his apprentice be granted the status of magus, whereas he'd expected to keep him for another year or two. The more senior Bonisagi had judged that Ludovicus' time spent under his first master did fully count towards his apprenticeship, despite Machmalius' arguments that the training he'd received was 'inferior' and should be ignored. The later threat, that he'd see Þorviðr dead before he recognized him, was still chilling when he thought about it. Particularly when, one night while returning alone to the small room he'd been provided during the Tribunal proceedings, he'd been beaten by a band of young men. Their parting words, as he laid bruised and gasping on the paved street, made it clear who was to blame. "He says ya should've shut yer mouth and kept workin' fer him, he did. See ya around, chump!"

After Guiseppe had noticed some of those same men following them, a few days later, Ludovicus had decided that moving to a different part of Rome would be better for his health. Better yet, leaving the city altogether would be good. So, remembering the letter, he'd set his grog to finding them a way to get to Saxony and the covenant of Fengheld. That, even before Tribunal proceedings were done with. Meanwhile, the young Bonisagus had been penning a letter to Fengheld, announcing their arrival. Hopefully that would work out, but even becoming a wandering magus in the Rhine would be better than suffering from Machmalius' wrath here in Rome.

A few weeks later, Ludovicus and Guiseppe deboard from the merchant ship in Hamburg. Although the trip to Germany had been quite uncomfortable, with the magus spending most of his time locked up in their tiny cabin. The captain's threat that he throw him overboard to quiet his crew's muttering had been familiar by this time, for this was the fourth ship they'd taken during their long journey. Ludovicus now wondering whether they would have been better taking the roads instead, but that was the past.

"Very good. Now that we are back on land, let us find ourselves some mode of transportation that will take us south, other than our own feet. Perhaps we can find a friendly farmer with an empty cart and a stolid ox? Or perhaps there are canals that reach further inland? As usual, I leave you to do the negotiations. You don't happen to speak any German, do you? If not, I'm sure you'll do your best to make yourself understood. Make sure to keep a low profile too. I don't expect Machmalius knows where we are, at least not yet, but it's better to be cautious. You know this better than I, so why am I bothering to tell you? Never mind. Let us be off on our search for the best possible means of travel."

"Where is this place we are going to, master?" Guiseppe asks, "You said somewhere in southern Saxony, called Fengheld, so I booked us on a ship going to Saxony, but I have no idea where that covenant is." The man is wringing his blue cap, one of his most prized possessions. This tells Ludovicus that his henchman is out of his element here, for he usually treats the cap with great care.

"Not to worry Giuseppe. We will find it. ... But come to think of it, I don't know exactly where it is either. In our haste to leave Italy, I neglected to ask anyone. Hmm, let me see. Give me a moment to search my memories."

OOC: Fengheld is pretty famous, but I don't think Ludovicus would necessarily know its precise location. But maybe he's heard what city is near it? Also, did Ludovicus have a chance to send his response to Stentorius' letter before boarding the ship, or is he carrying it with him?

(OOC: He sent a letter only a little time before leaving, so there was no chance to receive an answer, so he doesn't even know if he will be welcomed. On the other hand, he was able to get some information from a redcap about the covenant's location and how to get there. Although, now that he is there, those weren't as detailed as he thought they were. Somewhere in the Harz Mountains. Near Quedlinburg, wherever that is.)

"Ah yes, now I recall. Fengheld is near Quedlinburg. We must ask someone how to get there. Let us make our way to the perimeter of the city, and along the way keep a keen ear out for an Italian or Latin speaker. We could also ask a clergyman, if we must. The best we could hope for would be to come across a Redcap or some other member of the Order, so tell me if you spot a promising candidate."

Ludovicus sets off hesitantly toward the nearest church spire, assuming that once there he will find a major avenue that will eventually take him to a gate in the city walls.

Once Guiseppe understands where Ludovicus is headed, he leads the way through the narrow streets, quickly leaving behind more open area around the docks. After a short while navigating those streets, which leaves Ludovicus a bit confused, they arrive at the church. There is a mass going on at the moment, with the church being half full. Inside, the priest is extolling the virtues of dutiful work and the fulfilling of responsibilities, of charity and knowing one's place in life. It sounds as if the liturgical service is almost over.

"Giuseppe," Ludovicus calls quietly, "let us enter the church unobtrusively and keep to the walls. We will try to speak with the priest once everyone else has left."

The ceremony soon ends, as it seems that the congregation had already partaken in eucharist. The small crowd begins moving out of the church, although a few of them stick around and talk to the priest when he comes down from the altar. It takes some time before the priest is done talking to them, but eventually the last one leaves. As you approach him, he speaks to you in German inquiringly, which of course you do not understand.

(I forgot, in my previous description of the sermon, that he would be uttering it in German so you wouldn't have understood it.)

"God be with you Father," Ludovicus says in Latin, "We are two travelers unfamiliar with your lands and your language, and hope we can ask you for some directions."

"Ah. Well, welcome to Hamburg, my sons. And to St. Peter." The priest seems taken aback when Ludovicus speaks to him in Latin. Or perhaps it is the fact that it is Ludovicus that addressed him. "What brings you here?" he asks a bit suspisciously.

"We are simply passing through, Father. Our destination is Quedlinburg. Do you perhaps know the way or have any suggestions for how to reach it?"

Ludovicus makes an attempt to smile reassuringly, and breaks out his creepy grin.

"Quedlinburg, you say?" The priest looks uncomfortable when Ludovicus smiles. "Why on earth would you want to go there? It lies somewhere upstream, I believe, though not on the river itself. Farther than Magdeburg?"

"Thank you Father. We must travel there to meet with some colleagues of mine. Do you know of anyone who regularly makes the trip upstream, or who would be willing to take us?"

The priest shrugs, "I know not. You should ask at the docks, I'm sure that boats travel upstream all the time. Or just follow the roads south." He seems rather uninterested by either mean of travel. "Now, before you embark on additional travels, was there anything else I can do for you?" He looks at both Ludovicus and Guiseppe, as if pondering whether to ask, "Would you like to be heard in confession, to wash away the taint of your sins?"

"Ah, no thank you Father. We must be on our way. But before we go, could you please tell us the name of the river that we should follow to the south?"

The priest frowns as you decline his offer. Only unrepentant sinners and bad Christians (or even worse, heretics) decline a chance to be heard in confession, after all. "Why, the Elbe, of course."

"Thank you Father. Giuseppe, would you like the Father to hear your confession?"

"If you don't mind waiting, master," your grog answers in Italian. The priest nods and leads Guiseppe to the quiet corner of the church where such things are handled.