Chapter 11 where Thadeus gathers a party to return to Wicker Hill (End of Spring 1014)

When Thadeus sits down with Fergus, he says, "Thank you. We had several matters to take care of before we could travel back," he shrugs a little. "There was trouble in the south. The winter was hard in some place, with food becoming scarce. Ungulus fared relatively well on that front, but the increase in brigands had us concerned as well."

"After we left in the fall, we did indeed spend several weeks looking for the enemy. We followed our lead from Wicker Hill west and south. Although we did not find any of the warlocks, we crossed path with some of their allies. Giants. We were able to rescue one of our friends from them, but unfortunately found the remains of another. After that, we went east to the coast, hoping to find more information. No trace of the enemy there, though we did see some more giants from afar."

"I am no great teller of stories, but one of our companions is. I'm sure he'll be able to regale you with some of our tales tonight, if you so wish." He smiles, "Although I'm afraid he will have embellished it somewhat."

Changing subject, "I see that several of the survivors from the battle found a place under your leadership. That is good, they seem content here. Those who wish to stay are free to do so. If there are some who would prefer to come back with us, would you be opposed? I hear that some are struggling with the local speech."

Nauvi speaks to the grogs he recognises from the last journey, and asks how they are doing.

Fergus nods gravely to the report of giants, and smiles at the remark about Finn's embelishments. «What happened to the giants you encountered? Did you find their lair, or did you just cross paths?» He inquires as if he is mapping the infrastructure of a long-term enemy.

An etiquette+com roll is appropriate for Thadeus (you could possibly make a case for something other than etiquette); I'd say 6+ for a minimal success leaving no awkward tension, and 12+ to sow a seed for an possible alliance.

Nauvi talks to a few grogs, who are very pleased with the prospects. Last winter was easy compared to the last few, and many calves were born this Spring.

Hamish does what he can to identify and then build rapport with the leaders of Fergus's guard and military.

"The giants lived in a castle in the clouds, if you can believe that," Thadeus says, shaking his head. "That we reached by climbing a giant beanstalk. We found the bean amongst our friend's remains in the hills. We had to cut it down to prevent the giants from following us after we'd escaped. We wounded two of them, one quite severely, but did not kill any of them."

(Total of 9 on the roll for establishing a basis for alliance, using Charm/Folk Ken/Leadership as substitue abilities and 3 botch dice.)

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«Castle in the clouds!?» Fergus looks surprised, but not shocked. «That explains why we never find them. They can hide in the clouds and strike when we do not expect it. Did you find a lot of beans?»

Fergus does not object to inviting people to leave. «They are free men. I think almost all of them are settling down very well, but one or two may want to return to somewhere they call home. If they get the chance, we may all be better off.»

It is not easy to make out leaders of the guard. The people who look ready to fight seem to be equals. A couple of leader types are with Fergus as his concillors, but they do not look like they have prepared to fight. And besides, they are busy listening to Thadeus.

About the beans, "No, unfortunately."

Thadeus nods at the part about the men being free and choosing their own path, "We feel much the same way. Any who is interested in coming back to Ungulus is welcomed to do so. Can you let them know? We will also let those who choose to stay that we have no ill feeling about that. It is indeed best for everyone if they settle at the place they are most at home."

At that, Fergus leans over to one of the councillors and whispers. He nods in return, and speaks, «I can see to that, but most of them would be away from the manor. It would take a week, or maybe two, for the word to reach out to everyone. They would miss the chance to travel with yourselves.»

"That is a long time to wait," says Thadeus with a nod. "And we have much to do back home, and we would not want to be a burden on your hospitality. They also know the way to Ungulus, so if there are enough of them to travel safely, they might travel together when they are ready?"

"Otherwise, they would have to wait until we visit again -- perhaps in the fall." He smiles, "If such a visit is welcomed by you, of course. In the mean time, if you hear of any leads about the enemy, could you let us know?"

«We can see to that. |It is a long travel, though, so word may not be prompt.»

The conversation continues for a polite duration. You understand that all other wars and conflicts have been suspended to focus on the warlocks, and things are easy between the mundane lords. More than a few manors have been laid waste across the lowlands, and a few, like Fergus, have been able to pick up the remains a grow his own herd and retinue.

In the evening there is supper, and Finn makes a splendid performance. The story of Jack and the Beanstalk will be told again for centuries to come.

Hamish gets a chance to address some of the lieutenants, but they do not talk much, not about Fergus' business at least, though one of them, called Hector, is happy to share stories from the war.

Is there anything else you want to do at the manor?

(Not for me.)

Hamish is content with the small talk and cordial relations, ready to head back when Thadeus is ready.

Nauvi finishes talking to the grogs and is ready to leave when Hamish and Thadeus are.

You enjoy the hospitality for the night, and Fergus wishes you a good journey, politely and friendly but not overly enthusiastic about your relations.

I reckon you head East towards Dunwald. Is that right? The distance is about the same whether you go via Dunwald or Wicker Hill and St John.

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Yes, via Dunwald. We'll check on the way to see if anyone wants to come live at Ungulus, based on what we told Benvy. And check with her again to see if there's anything else we can do for her or her village.

It takes a day and a half to get to Dunwald, but nobody pesters you, except possibly for Fergus' riders whom you see watching you from a distance for most of the first day.

Around midday the next day, you reach the hill overlooking Dunwald. It looks abandoned. The fields have not been ploughed this year, and there is no livestock or people to be seen. The graveyard is as you left it the last time.

Roll an awareness+perception 12+ please

(Thadeus Awareness roll of 10)

[Hamish Awareness + Per Roll: 7]

Finn¹ points to the woods South of Dunwald, where you see a narrow column of smoke rising. Coming up that way last year, you are pretty sure there is no cottage there, so it ought to be a camp. It is near the riverside path, and maybe a little more than half a mile away.

¹ making the awareness roll

"That could be trouble," says Hamish as he follows the direction Finn is pointing. "Someone is camping there. Should we look into it our avoid it?"

The big soldier looks at Thadeus.

"Or do you have a means of quietly scouting it out?"