Chapter 1: Touching Down in Helgeland

In the morning of the seventh day after departing from Anvers, the small convoy formed by the cog and the knarr are making good time sailing on a choppy sea. Although the stiff wind is allowing them to travel faster, the constant up and down motion of the ship has taken its toll on the passengers cooped up below for most of the journey.

The first indication that the destination was near was two small points slowly rising out of the sea on the eastern horizon. These soon become recognizable as columns of rock rising out of the water like guardians to the island that soon appear as well. A slash of green hugging the water, with cliffs of white and red overlokking the lowlands.

Tha captain directs his crew to angle the ship's path on a more southerly heading, so as to skirt the island from the southwest. The closer they get, the more impressive the cliffs become, rising ten times the height of the ship's mast and dwarfing its passengers. Soon enough the sheer wall of reddish rock, banded with darker and paler strands, slide by of the left side of the ship. The island's port come into view, with its adjacent town sprawling below the slightly lower cliff of the southern part of the island. The piers are unimpressive on number and size, but adequate for the needs of your small ship. A few sailing vessels can be seen beached a bit further off, while many more dot the sea around the island. The knarr soon joins it on the other side of the pier.

Once the magi have disembarked and work has begun offloading their supplies, Bernhard joins them. "I have sent for carts and porters to transport your belongings into storage. Would you like to wait until everything has been stored, or would you rather we go to Oberland straight away?"

Fresse has already departed the ship as fast as he could once they docked in the pier and is sitting by one of the pier posts looking really pale. He holds the post as if he thought that the pier would collapse if he let go of it. ALice is finishing up preparing the bundles of their belongings and preparing to disembark. Returning his attention to the redcap Quercus listens to Bernhard.

Good. Since you mentioned storage problems during the trip I would like to inspect our belongings before going to the Oberland. It might be that important equipment has been broken and we need to take that into account. I can come and catch up with you later given my abilities and Fresse's so you can start going there if you prefer. It does not look far away, but it is a fair trek to do by foot.

Bernhard answers hesitantly to Quercus, "Magus... if you plan on using magic to transport yourself, then perhaps... you should wait until you are better acquainted with the island? There is a fairly large population around, so you might get noticed..." He looks embarassed, "We are in no hurry for the moment, so if you prefer to make sure of your supplies before we go to the site, this is no problem to me."

I have ordered Trond and Yulia to see that our belongings get taken care of with the rest of the crew. Bernhard, if you can tell them who or what to look out for when the carts arrive then I think we can set for the Oberland right away. The less time we spend down here the fewer will see us and start asking questions. Hjalmar will join us if that's ok.
He turns to Quercus. I think the equipment is just fine and if it's not, there is not much we can do about it now anyway. Let's check out the tree first, that's why we are here.

Bernhard looks from Japik to Quercus, looking unsure as to how to proceed from there. He offers hesitantly, "Indeed, I can tell your grogs whom to expect..."

Yes, yes. Come now, Quercus. Let us be off. I am eager to see our new home.

Dietlinde is rifling through her bag next to Alice, chattering away.

Well sodales, I am less sure than you seem to be about unskilled labor taking care of some of our more delicate materials without damaging them, but if you are so eager to leave for the tree I will come along. Bernhard, lead the way.

Quercus stops by the side of Fresse and directs him to take an eye on the unloading operation. The still pale shield grog does not seem very happy about being left behind, but agrees with a grumble. You hear him grumbling about "the magi will get themselves killed while I am away for sure and they will blame me for that" or something along these lines.

With a look and a nod, Pytheas instructs Morlaer to stay with his belongings, and with a wave of his hand he summons Benarec to him.

Let us go, I am ready.

Japik pulls up the hood of his cloak and motions for Hjalmar to move ahead of him. Hjalmar readies himself, checking his sword and strapping the round shield on his back. Yulia comes over to him and gives him a hug that seems to squeeze out all the air in his lungs, then she kisses him. Now you come back in one piece and control your eyes, no indecent looks at the girls just because I'm not around. I know when you have been unfaithful, she says with a demanding voice. Hjalmar shakes his head and mumbles something then kisses her and starts walking in the direction Japik motioned.

((Just to make sure who accompanies Bernhard, beside the four magi. Right now it looks like just Hjalmar, fully armored (heavy leather) and armed (longsword and round shield). With the rest of the grogs, covenfolk and sailors helping/supervising the unloading and storage of the supplies.))

((I'll post some more this afternoon, I have a meeting this morning.))

((Benarec is coming too, armed with only a simple knife.))

Alruna comes with the magi as well, dressed like a servant in plain clothes but with her dagger handy.

The sizeable group -- composed of four magi, four grogs and the redcap -- departs from the piers and make their way through the outskirts of the town. Buildings are mostly made of irregular stones mortared together, with thatched roof. Most are single-story buildings, although it seems that the center of the town has a few two-story buildings, including what looks from a distance like a fairly large fortified manor house.

But Bernhard leads the group on a path that avoids the center of town, heading northeast along the coast in the direction of the cliff, which is a bit lower at this end of the island. It still looks quite impressive, well over a hundred feet high. As the path weaves its ways between houses, the magi can catch glimpses of stairs climbing along the side of the cliff. They see local folks going around their life, fishermen tending their nets and artisans selling their wares, with hand-drawn carts being used to carry goods from one place to the other. Children playing in the packed-dirt-and-rock streets. Those who pay attention to the group simply stare at the strangers.

Soon enough, the buildings become less numerous as the group leaves town at the foot of the cliff, where a short path leads them to the stairs. Made of wooden beams anchored to cracks into the stone, it is narrow but obviously well-used. Barely wide enough for two people to cross each other, a few landings have been built along the way, allowing the travellers to rest. And rest is needed soon enough, for your thighs are burning from the unaccustomed exercice. Sixty steps up to the first landing, then sixty more. And another sixty or so, before at last the group reaches the top of the climb. Out of breath and with legs feeling like badly-wrung clothing.

And the view is breath-taking. Dizzying, actually, for those more accustomed to walking on land rather than mountaineering.

Japik stops to catch his breath when they reach the top and takes the moment to look around out over the flat Oberland and then the ocean around them.
Wow, this is awesome. I wouldn't imagine a more perfect place to set up a covenant. Now let's see that tree and how strong the magic aura might be. He is breathing heavily but eager to continue immediately as he looks at Bernhard and the others.

Hjalmar sits down on the ground to rest for a few moments but is back on his feet as soon as they start moving again.

Pytheas reaches the top with barely a twinge in his legs[sup]1[/sup]. This is, after all, the same height he has climbed so often as an apprentice to bring his master a drop of seawater[sup]23[/sup]. He turns around, and feels immediately at home: the height is just right, and the view over the sea just as magnificent. All it lacks is the covenant... but it is doubtful that the group of young magi can raise anything to equal the fortress magically raised by Tytalus himself at the height of his powers. Still, perhaps that is for the best. A lesser structure can be improved to suit their taste and needs instead of limiting them with a predetermined mold. A laboratory at or near sea level, for instance, has possibilities...

This is perfect ! Well, perhaps not right here, with the village under us, but the cliffs themselves feel just like home !

Turning his head, he sees that Benarec is breathing heavily, and he is not the only one.

Let's stop and admire it for a while before we go on !

(([sup]1[/sup] Stamina 3 and Long Winded. Not to contradict our esteemed ST, but I feel it will take more than that climb to inconvenience Pytheas.
[sup]2[/sup] Ushant also has vertical cliff of about 200 feet and a flat top, although it is larger in area.
[sup]3[/sup] So the master could taste it and proclaim the sea still salty.))

((OOC: Fresse has remained down supervising the operations and so has Alice, so Quercus has gone up the cliff alone))

Quercus rests for a moment looking down the cliff. Being used to fly in his sparrowhawk form this height does not make him feel dizzy, but it certainly is impressive. Resting against a rock he observes the town under the cliff. He can see that Quercus has already moved from his previous site by the side of the pier’s post, but he cannot recognize him among the multiple men carrying burdens from the ship to the carts.

Once he has recovered and when he sees that there is no he sponts an intellego vim spell to detect if there is a magical aura in the area. It is impressive enough to have one for sure, so he wouldn’t be surprised if he can find one. He recedes a little bit into the cliff, observes around to try to avoid mundane attention if there are any shepherds around and talks against the wind, so his voice does not carry very far. He talks clearly and with strong gestures, but avoids yelling or doing exaggerated gestures.

Cast spontaneously with fatigue:
B1 (detect the presence of a mystical aura), +1 touch, +3 hearing, = InVi5.
InVi casting total 2+4+5=11+D10 + aura (if any)

Prochorus makes an effort to look composed, but it's obvious he's exhausted after the climb.

Admire, hmm?

He looks around and sniffs at the air.

Much better than Lübeck's insufferable stench! Ha, this is just the right kind of perch for odd birds like us. A little barren, sure, but that leaves all the more room for play.

((The effects of the climb and the view were described as a general rule -- some individuals may not have been affected as badly as the others. Pytheas would indeed have been less affected by the climb itself, just as Quercus would not be as dizzy. So yes, the effects would have been reduced that way, although not completely brushed off as inconsequential.))

Bernhard sits down on a large rock, slumping in exhaustion, when he finally reaches the top of the stairs. His somewhat rotund physique is ill-suited to the long climb, but you haven't heard him complain -- only wheeze and groan -- as he negociated the stairs. Benarec, on the other hand, has spent the first part of the climb bitching and complaining about the climb. The old servant slowly went silent on the second stretch of stairs and was completely silent on the last third -- breathing heavily and a bit white from looking down. The rest of the grogs managed reasonably well, although all were happy to arrive at the top of the cliff.

While the redcap catches his breath, the magi survey their surroundings. From top of the stairs, a path leads to a small village a few hundred feet distant to the left. About two dozen houses and various buildings, including one that must be a small church by the cross surmounting it. Small fields stretch out around the village, some of which comes right to the edge of the cliff. Peasants are working the ground, nurturing the thin layer of soil forming patches between low stone walls.

Farther away the rocky ground is mostly covered my grasses and ground-covering plants. Small herds of sheep can be seen to the north, being watched over by youths and adults alike. There are a few small trees, both in the village and scattered along the northeastern edge of the cliff (which is lower and thus less exposed to the winds).

Seeing no mundane close to them, Quercus casts his spell to determine if there is a magical aura after resting himself for a bit. Calling forth upon his knowledge of the Art, he feels his spell twist almost out of his control, but he manages to keep it focused ((rolled a 0 but no botch)). As the spell runs its course, he listens for the soft chimes that would denote the presence of an aura, but hears only the wind.

After Quercus relates the disappointing result to the others, Bernhard gets back on his feet and looks ready to continue on.

Quercus sits in a rock to recover himself after the spell's ordeal. Well, at least the lack of an aura helped him not losing control. Still, the lack of an aura was disappointing. He would have bet there should have been one in such a magnificent place. Grunting slightly Quercus gets up when the rest of the party do and follows them.

Our neighbors here Prochorus gestures towards the village constantly have their eyes on the stairs. Could be useful or not.

He stretches his legs.

So, which way to the tree of ominous death, Bernhard?