Chapter 1: The Untrod Path

In which things are not what they seem.

The tracks in the snow are faint, but clear through the blizzard. They lead off up the mountain, a different way than Jonathan came, too steep and treacherous for anyone sane. No one travels it, not magus, nor Redcap, nor common man, for it is barely a path at all. As far as you know, it leads nowhere except up the craggy face of the mountain. You seem to recall that it is a hard path that dead-ends at a sheer rock face a few miles up the slope.

Imari's first spell had told him there were recent tracks to the spot where he arrived, and he quickly knelt, and cast another spell to make those tracks sing to his ears, so that they could be followed even hidden under a thick mantle of snow. The few minutes that had passed since the attack had allowed little enough to cover them, and often the Finn could see the source of that sound, dim impressions in the snows that wound their way up towards he was not sure where.

Because he could hear those footprints, he could keep his head up as he followed, and see to the horizon, seeking the creator somewhere ahead of him. He wished for more speed, but knew the spell that allowed him to walk upon the snows surface would not support that at anything above a moderate pace, tho' that would still be faster than any who slogged thru the depths of the snow itself. However if, in his opinion, the lay of the land would have forced an obvious choice of path, he then paused only a heartbeat to quickly leap some great distance ahead, saving some precious moments in the chase, and only leaping back if the sound of the tracks ceased where he had guessed they must lead...

The soft song of the tracks leads you up the mountain, a narrow and treacherous path. Leaping ahead great distances saves a little time, but must be done with care, as the trail winds its way carefully, and it can be hard to know where to leap.

Finally, you reach the end. You know the area around the covenant well enough, and around the next corner should be the sheer rock wall where the path dead-ends.

It should be, but it isn't. The path continues, leading up along a route you know does not exist except that you see it with your eyes.

The tracks and their song stop suddenly at the threshold between the Path That Should Be and the Path That Shouldn't Be, But Is. Winding its way up the trail, the snow is pure and unbroken, sparkling like a covering of tiny diamonds in the moonlight.

The Finn doesn't like what he has found - it smells of all things that his master warned him about - not that bookish Parens, but his real master, the one who taught him, and not just recite. But the latter did provide him with some new tools, he'll admit that - stepping to the very edge of the visible trail, and using a loud voice and exaggerated gestures to help assure success, he summons up a simple InVi effect and reaches out, testing for Regio by touch, or a better sense if possible, first Faerie, then Magical - then other, if both of those seem to fail.

Whether or not it's there as he suspects, he does not wish to disappear into the mountains as others of legend have before him - he reaches across to the untouched snow, and gathers a double handful of the sparkling virgin fall. He then heads back to his quarters, moves to his lab and stores half in a container, literally "on ice" as a preserving measure, and then moves a leap at a time to the appointed rendezvous with the other half.

[color=brown](OOC - InVi Base 3, +1 Concentration = Lvl 4 Touch, Lvl 6 for Smell, 7 for Hearing, 8 Sight. d+7+Aura

Also Faerie Lore 1 (+1 "Fae of the Winterland") +2 Int.

Wilderness Sense 5 (+1 hazards) + 2 Per

Awareness 3 (+1 alertness) +2 Per

+3 "Ways of the Winterland" bonus, if/as appropriate.)

Your skin tingles as you sense the regio boundary. There is a Faerie regio on the other side of the path. It looks like you can just walk across it, although your knowledge of Intellego Vim would probably be too weak to allow you find the boundary with magic alone if you had to get back.

There are no immediate dangers on the other side that you can perceive, other than the wintery ones you've dealt with to get this far.

Sometime later...

A set of tracks, fresh enough that they are still visible in the new-fallen snow, lead across the pristine landscape and across the New Path, out into the regio. They disappear when they cross the boundary, just as the ones you followed earlier did.

Winds plods steadily onward, following Ilmari through the snow. Her head is down to concentrate on her footing and to keep some of the snow from blowing into her face. She reaches back and grabs her hair, pulling it all into a ponytail and tying it into a loose knot to keep it from blowing about in her face. Winds has a moment of uncertainty about this venture as they seem to walk on and on into nowhere. "We're not getting lost are we?"

((Backpost edit))

He turns from the cave, and follows the trail into the night and the falling snow...

The two march steadily on the very top of the snows, faster than most could travel without great effort in the varying drifts and depths of a winter's worth of snow beneath tonight's thick new fall.

"I see in snow, ant hear trail guud."

As they climb, he shares his thoughts on where the trail might lead.

"Laster ze retcap attacks, I walk at a foot road here also before. Eet lead to fay-ree reh-jee-oh. Easy see zere, easy follow no problem. But I having not power to Vim for find Regio - come in es easy part, go out es never so much."

Ilmari is intent on tracking the missing mag-ocide suspect, tho' in his mind he has mixed feelings about catching him, and what he would do once he did. He stops where the other had stopped, once again casting his Tale of the Snows, but learning little more than what was obvious. As the two trails merge into one, he sponaneously casts a simple spell to uncover the earlier tracks, which he should be able to see beneath the snows, and compares the sound of the new ones to the earlier, to see if they are the same.

At this point, for the first time, he has reason to turn his attention from the trail to the view from above the covenant.

"Zere! Ze covenant has fire!" This is followed by some unintelligible and enthusiastic words in what must be his native language, and then again in what passes for his Latin-

"Ze covenant es having great fire!"

Intent on her own footing, Winds isn't paying attention, and almost runs into Ilmari when he stops. She watches him as he studies the snow some more, thinking about how some of these spells Ilmari knows would really be useful in her repitoire, with perhaps some improvements. Perhaps boosting this spell for walking on snow so someone could move at a run, or make it so she can cast it on her heartbeast form. Then she can gallop on top of snow and water!

Lost to her own musings, she jumps a little as Ilmari starts shouting. "What?" She turns in the direction he is pointing, seeing great flames billowing out from the manorhouse. Her mind races to all that might be trapped in the building; magi, grogs, her papers! "Oh no!" Winds looks along the trail of footprints, hoping to see an end, and then whips her head back to the house. "Looks like Cato made a distraction. But we have to go help!"

Winds will cast her spell, One Giant Leap (transports her up to 500 paces, anywhere she can see), if Ilmari cast his spell to see through the storm upon her.

Ilmari had indeed cast the InAu/Aq spell upon the other mage at the same time as the one to allow her to walk upon the snows, and as she makes the Rego Corpus gestures, he immediately follows suit. A few quick jumps of a similar 500 paces distance, tho' hopefully landing in different areas, puts them under the shadow of the burning covenant...

[color=orange](Continued in "The Covenant Ablaze" thread...)

The two trails do not have the same sound, though they are difficult to tell apart, having been made by someone of similar weight at a similar time. Still, in your experience, this probably means they were not made by the same person.

((I'm having a bad day with creativity so I'll just quote falls. If warjoski wants to add some story I am fine. Korvin will not spend a confidence point now because he thinks he will need it later. When he drops Tireless flight he had better be in bed))

Korvin will cast Gift of the Bears Fortitude on himself and Apple ( assuming he is willing).

Between them, Apple and Korvin kept on the track, Korvin keeping them in the general area of the path and Apple finding the tracks. Now, at the sight of the trail, Apple stops and looks over at Korvin, raising both eyebrows in question. “You know anything of this friend?”

He happily accepts Korvin’s casting, lowering his parma to accommodate.

Apple will try a spont ReAu ward against wind. He will fatigue himself and try to get a Lvl 10 effect D: Sun (ReAu total is +9).

Apple leans against an outcropping of rock a moment and closes his eyes, taking advantage of the momentary rest. “Alright,” he says, looking up at Korvin. “You’ve got a knife. I have a few half baked ideas about what will happen next. We’re both naked, cold, and tired, with no idea of what we’re walking in to.

“On the other hand, we’re both apparently too stupid to think any better of it, and ignorance is it’s own form of strength.” Apple sighs, smiles, and walks up the trail, keeping an eye out for the faint sign of foot prints.”

"Ilmari found it earlier when we was looking into who attacked Gino...the Redcap. This is just how he described it. Other than that...I have no knowledge."

As the past the Regio boundary, Korvin's knowledge of the area ceases and he must totally rely on Apple's tracking ability.

"I'm not cold per se. I put a spell of warm on me before we left the cave."

"What do you make of Pryor and his change?"

Once through the Regio borders, Apple studies their surrondings, then studies the path before them, looking for tracks.

Apple nods. "I cast one on myself before I went up to the spring. It's this wind that's brutalizing me."


Apple smiles. "Well, I seldom know what I'm talking about, but my best guess is that Pryor is...was...Jacopo's familiar. Jacopo must have enchanted him into a human form and mind. And now with Jacopo dying, the link between them cut...I guess he's reverting back to type. Wolf would be my guess.

"Or maybe he's a lycanthrope. Slow transformation if he is."

Apple chuckles, not kindly. "I guess we'll find out how loyal he is to Jacopo, huh? Munch munch." Apple stares up ahead. "The trail looks to go straight." He moves up the path.

You cross the regio border, and immediately the blizzard dies away to almost nothing. You are naked and alone before an expanse of undisturbed fresh snow that glimmers in the moonlight. It extends as far as the eye can see. There is a tiny, thin path, slightly more solid than the pristine white around it, as if patted down by long travel. Strangely - or perhaps not, for who knows what may be strange in a place such as this - there are no tracks visible. Not the ones you followed, not the ones that made the path, not anything.

The path appears to extend only in front of you, not behind, as if it began exactly at the boundary and extended outward from there. It wends its way up the mountain, austere and uncaring of its destination. The white landscape seems endless and unbroken.


Just off the path, off in the distance and some ways above you, perhaps ten minutes walk along the path, or less than a minute if you left the path and went directly up and across the mountain, you can see a small herd, surely unique among its type. There are about twenty men and women, wearing red-brown pelts on their bodies and standing alert, perhaps because they have just become aware of you. The men are crowned by sizable sets of horns growing out of their heads, and you can see a few children with little nubbins near the back of the odd gathering. As you turn to look, one deer-man, muscular and bearing a massive and scarred set of horns turns toward you and sniffs the air in an entirely deer-like fashion. He does not open his mouth, but his voice rings out over the mountain.

[size=117]Have you come to hunt or be hunted, sons of Adam?[/size]

(in referece to the previous conversation)"A familiar? I had not thought of that. I would think it odd to gain a familiar then change them to a human. I had a thought that Cato and Jacopo might be tied to the covenant in some way. This prophesy that Cato mentioned, I heard something about it tonight but no details."

(After crossing the regio)

to Apple " Well this is going to be interesting."

To the DeerMan., "We are hunting another son of Adam who entered this way."

Apple shrugs. "As I said, I seldom know what I'm talking about. It's purely a guess. Pryor may have several explanations to him."

After crossing the regio

Apple grins, letting Korvin take the lead. He is going to look, really look, at his surrondings here. The lack of tracks bothers him. Are there any tracks for example showing how the Herd got to be where they are standing now?

There are no tracks, not a one. There appear to be some in the immediate vicinity of the deer people, but no evidence of how they got to where they are or where they came from, and there should be in natural snow.

Hearing Korvin’s shouted response, for you are relatively far from the herd, the deer man inclines his head. He does not open his mouth, but his voice echoes out over the mountainside. "Ah, you have come to hunt then. We do not like hunters here."

He turns his side to you, still watching you carefully with one eye. "If you wish to hunt, man-thing, then you cannot stay on the path, for those who hunt will not find their quarry where others walk."

He turns back to his herd, still watching you, and you get the impression of a silent chuckle. "Of course, if you leave the path to hunt, others may hunt you."

Apple considers the path a moment and then looks over the entire landscape, considering the Deer Man's words. He is looking for any irregularity either on the horizon or up the mountain that might speak of a building or some type of destination.

Apple bows towards the herd. "Your counsel is heard. Thank you."

He looks at Korvin. "I've never been much on paths anyway. Shall we go up the mountain then?" He points in a direction that parallels the path.

"We should hurry now I think."