Chapter 1bis (Spring 1013) Arrival in Calais

As the sun sets, Cath'rinne will land on a high perched branch to renew her Parma Magica and Voice of the Bjornaer spell, adding a Wizard's Sidestep just in case. She follows through with a spontaneous personal range eyes of the cat (OOC: rolled a 5 for the spont. It comes off for 1 fatigue).

She flies up again and keeps an eye up and smelling for anything unusual.

The grogs and specialists are increasingly disconcerted as the trusted superiors disappear into four-legged-ness. Neither Finn nor Betula have shown any sign of assuming responsibility and much less command. With no better option, they glance to Ruedi for guidance, but they don't really know him, I think.

The bear has more of a natural way with the forest than horses and men. Breaking down branches to make way for the others is not quite the natural way, and Mordred watches with an air of disapproval, but he does not speak up against the bear.

In spite of the faciliations, it is still a slow and arduous journey for the more mundane members of the party. It is easier, but not actually easy. After a little more than two hours, you may notice that the forest changes and feels more alive; not an unusual feature to those who have roamed magical auras before.

«We are almost there,» says Malhad. «Stick together. There will be guards out, and they may be a little nervous, as I am sure you understand. And please, tread with a little more care and try not to break any branches here in the heart of the forest.»

Malhad and Mordred seem to have found a winding path, and take more care to lead you along. You move slowly, and it feels like moving in circles, but after a quarter of an hour or so, the first guard shouts their warning. Malhad answers and identifies himself, and the guard appears.

«You bring strangers to the camp!?»

«They saved my life and they too are hunted be Eadric.»

Malhad and the guard discuss a little in quite voices, and the guard seems satisfied.

«Did you get what you needed in town?»

«Well. The men-at-arms took it all when I was arrested. Sorry.»

The guard looks worried when he lets you pass. You are all tired from the journey, it has been a long day, and most of it on the move, at least one long-term fatigue level down. Those who have walked unaided by magic, are utterly exhausted, at least three levels down, and almost staggering.

After the guard, it only takes five or ten minutes before you are in a camp. You see no sign of it until you stand between the tents and bivouacs, mostly hidden under trees and branches. In the middle there is only a small camp fire, hardly lighting up the camp site. Malhad and Mordred are greeted warmly by the two persons who tended the fire.

«Betula,» says Malhad, «this is Fridswed and Gareth,» and turning back to his two friends, «Betula here speaks our language. The others are strangers. Betula, maybe you will introduce them? Cath'rinne, Obstetrix, and Benedict are shapechangers.»

He points at the shapechangers that he can see.


Cath'rinne will land on a branch above, observing for now. She is trying to gauge the size of the camp, the number of inhabitants, and whether there are any that are of an obvious magical nature.

OOC: In case it's needed, Awareness check is 10, +1 if applicable for spotting corpses, another +3 if keen sense of smell applies.

It is impossible to gauge numbers at night. You can identify a handful of shelters; but there might easily be a dozen or a score. The size too, of each of the ones you do see, is also hard to gauge, as they seem to extend under uprooted trees, and other concealments.

I'm guessing some are in tents, yes, but wouldn't Eyes of the Cat let me have a vision that's comparable to daytime?

Eyes of the Cat are not unconditionally equivalent to daylight, no. It explicitly does not give you anything in absolute darkness. Eyes of the Cat with starlight is probably about equivalent to human eyes in optimal daylight. Here you have night, shadow of the treas, and obstructing undergrowth that all add up to difficult.

But yes, Eyes of the cat should be a little better. There are more than five shelters, but it is also clear that they have been deliberately concealed, some of them pretty well. You still do not get any numbers, not from your branch anyway. Judging by smell, there must be at least 15-20 people, not counting the new arrivals, but you cannot tell how many more.

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Obstetrix is content to stay in her Heartbeast for now. She didn't get much chance to do so on the way here, so any chance to indulge is cherished. She looks around her, and when failing to see much, she stands quiet and waits for now. Since she doesn't understand their language, it's difficult to know what's going on, but she is observing to see if she can glean any other powers they might have, for the power they displayed of affecting the forest was intriguing to her.
And while she does, she will also cast Physician's Eye on the guard talking to Malhad and Mordred, to see if he's well.

OOC: Spell casting total of 31 before Aura modifications, if any.

Cath'rinne remains above, observing, prefering to let the other magi and companions initiate contact with the group of hedgies.

He is sweating, and trembling a little. Maybe he is nervous?

The locals nod towards the heartbeasts with awe, and look to Betula for further introductions.

The bear takes a couple of steps back, behind a tree into darkness. A few moments later, Benedict emerges from the darkness, wearing his long tunic, bare feet and legs making it apparent he probably isn't wearing anything else, hair rumpled from a quick enrobing. He steps forward into the firelight, running his fingers through his hair, and smiles at Fridswed and Gareth.

He speaks in the language they used between themselves, saying, "As Malhad said, I am Benedict. These are Betula, Obstetrix, Cath'rinne, and Finn. Just as you are wary, so are we. Like you, we are just people, trying to live our lives without being interfered with or hunted by those who fear what they do not understand. We are travelling this isle in the shadows of great dangers past and present, trying to find safe spaces, and trying to find survivors who have the same values we do. We believe stealth is better than confrontation, and we believe it's easier to survive together than apart. We found a boy and his father, and we thought their lives had inherent value, so we saved them, not for thought of reward, but because it was right."

He looks around at the magi, then back to his audience. "We would like to be your friends. It seems they are hard to find in this place."

13 on Charm


«We could use all the friends we can get in these times, and Malhad told us what you did,» says Fridswed. «You are the bearshape? Bendic?» She asks with an uncertain voice. «That is a rare power indeed. You are most welcome to stay the night. We will have to talk about the future in the morning.»

«With what has happened,» says Gareth, «we will move on to another camp, but we have time to rest, I think. The knights usually take a day or two to decide on their actions. Come, I can help you make a bed for the night.»

Gareth finds shelter for you under a windfallen tree, cutting branches and twigs with his axe, and using them to cover the ground. He welcomes any help, but is quick to correct those with limited camping skills. He does a good job, and the shelter is not bad, as far as makeshift bivouacs go. «We have been living like this for almost five years now,» he apologises. «Cottages would only make us more vulnerable to Eadric's knights.»

When the shelter is ready, Malhad and Mordred have already gone to bed in another shelter.

Cath'rinne will accept the offer of shelter and rest.

Obstetrix will exult in her ability to stay in Heartshape around these people, for now, and will spend the night in horse form, unless there's not enough room.

Benededict nods in response to the question about bearshape, he does what he can to help with the camp setup, then goes to sleep.

Betula's plodding steps required that she march double-time every so often to keep pace and when they arrive she is winded and seems even more tired than the mundanes. She is practically falling asleep on her feet and fails to offer much more than a nod and a muttered, "Well met." When they are gratefully led to the shelter she quickly finds a spot and lays down to sleep.

In the morning she wakes early, with the first lightening of the sky, kneeling in the place she slept to meditate silently. Thinking on yesterday's events and what they learned of this Eadric and of Castellum Veridian until her companions and the rest of the camp awakens. As the sounds and smells of fire and cooking increase she follows them hoping to find Mordred or Malhad or one of those she half remembers being introduced to, and, hopefully, a bite to eat.

It was night, and then there was morning, the first day in the camp. When Betula wakes up, she can see the faint, glowing light from the campfire and the silhouette of a hooded person huddling next to it. It does not take long before more people get up to join them. Those who pass by Betula look twice and raise an eyebrow, and raises an uncertain hand in greeting if Betula looks up, before they continue to the camp fire.

Some words are exchanged in quiet before the camp gets busy. More wood is put on the fire, a cauldron is retrieved from a storage shelter, and cooking starts. Those not busy around the camp fire appear to be packing their things.

The late arrivals are still knackered and likely to not to rise until breakfast is announced. The same is true for some of the locals. When they do gather, you count about 25 adults and half as many children.

The breakfast is poorer fare than any of you are used to. The stew seems to be made mainly of roots and make up the bulk of the meal. However, some skewered and roasted meat is served alongside, apparently an assortment of scraps from a range of wild animals; certainly no prime cuts.

«Good morning,» greets Mordred, smiling. Malhad looks tired and seems to have to make an effort to make a polite greeting without grunting. «Have you slept well?» he manages to ask. From the ensuing conversation you learn that there will be a council meeting after breakfast where the tribe will decide to do. The general mood leads the thoughts towards some kind of war council. Nobody will commit to any guesses of what they will do.

Betula is thankful for the stew but leaves the meat for others and when the woman serving insists she informs her, “I avoid eating meat but thank you for sharing with us.”

“Good morning,” Betula says to them both and in response to Malhad’s question she responds with a smile, “I am still tired but it is nice to sleep among the trees and not close to a road. Far too many nights I spent sleeping deep in The Cave.” The capitalization is apparent as she says The Cave. “I would ask your advice, Malhad…” Betula says softly and hopefully a little away from others, “what I told you about our group… was there a reason you did not tell them when we were introduced? Should I do the same?”

«What you told me about the group?» Malhad looks confused. «Oh, about you being part of the warring Order, you mean? No, there has not yet been time to recount the full story, yet. My people will have to look at all the facts after breakfast, and then we decide what to do. Could you tell me more about your Order? What are the two factions like? I understand that you have been away for years, but the more we know, the better we will fare.»

“Two? Hah! There ar-err, were Thirteen… and more inside of those… well, we call them Houses.” Betula’s eyes for a moment have the look of a mother who just listened to her child tell her an amusing story that they thought was true but definitely wasn’t but then she seems to have a realization. “One of the Houses was attacked by many of the others, that is two broader factions. And another could be that some Houses, mine and the House of Obstetrix and Cath’rinne as well as others, either took no concerted stance or they, as a group, went into hiding to avoid the warfare. The fighting has stretched from these Isles all the way to the Mediterranean, mostly in the West. I have only been a member of the Order for a year, an apprentice before that, but my clutchmates at The Cave felt the fighting was dwindled enough to allow me to leave its safety.”

Betula will happily keep explaining to the best of her ability but her companions are probably waking.

The others are waking, if that makes a difference. Malhad was not among the early risers.

«So some of you stayed out of the fighting. Good to hear. You mentioned yourself and the other two ladies. What about Bear'n'dict,» he hesitates, «that was his name wasn't it, the bearshape? Did his House fight? Do you know which side is winning?»