A couple of days after the Council meeting, Gregorius starts towards the local village to meet with its headman. With him, he takes Theodoric, a shield grog, Aison, and a bottle of olive oil as a gift for the headman.
Though you've seen the village already, at the time of your landing from the ship, this is your first chance for a close look at it--and in any case you're likely paying a lot more attention now.
The stereotype of the Kipchaks is of nomadic barbarians, but this village clearly is well-established: the houses are sturdily built, and the space around them is criss-crossed by well-maintained stone walls (their limestone looking suspiciously like that found at the covenant site); these people have lived here for a few generations, at least.
As you approach the village, people in the fields begin to look up from their work, and a few of them cry out to those further away. A number of children run towards you and follow at a discreet distance, though only a brave few approach within a few paces. As you pass the first of the houses that line the track on which you enter, you see a small group of villagers gathered around a well at the village's center. It's among this group that you spy the headman--he's obvious both by his great height and by the fact that the others' eyes shift back and forth between him and you. As you come close, he greets you amiably, but with a due degree of formality, speaking his own tongue.
Shortly before they came into sight of the village, Gregorius stops and casts Bitter Taste of Betrayal upon himself. [Casting total In 6 + Me 6 + Sta 1 + Aura 1 + die 9 = 23, goes off without fatigue. Will let him know if he comes under the effect of any magic, but won't give him anymore information than that.]
When the headman speaks, Gregorius smiles a polite greeting, then looks to Theodoric for a translation.
Once Theodoric has translated, and assuming the translation does not make it inappropriate, he speaks:
"My thanks for your welcome. I regret that I do not speak your tongue, so Theodoric will translate for me."
He waits for Theodoric to translate again.
Having talked with Theodoric previously, the headman is expecting this. After the exchange of greetings, he introduces you formally to the village, introducing some of its more important members to you as well. The round of introductions takes a few diameters, after which he invites you to join him in his house.
Gregorius introduces himself as "Gregorius of Tremere, of the Order of Hermes", and tries to remember names, especially that of the headsman. He looks to Theodoric to let him know when it's the appropriate time to offer the oil.
He accepts the headsman's invitation and enters the house, taking Theodoric but leaving the shield grog outside.
Theodoric says now would be a good time. The headman accepts the gift and smiles, seemingly pleased by it. You're then seated within his house, where you're offered milk to drink, and a light snack.
Gregorius accepts the hospitality with a smile and a brief word of thanks, and sups lightly. When he judges the headsman is ready to get down to business, he begins.
"My sodales and I intend to re-establish the covenant that was here before on behalf of our Order. I understand that relations between your village and the previous covenant were cordial, and I hope that that will continue."
He studies the headsman's reactions as he waits for Theodoric to translate.
[Per 3 + Folk Ken 2 = 5 + die]
The headman smiles amiably, if not without caution. "We have no quarrel with you or your kind. I can though offer you caution: this locale can be very dangerous."
Gregorius nods, frowning.
"Indeed, the destruction of the previous covenant here tells us that even without your kind warning, and I would be grateful for any futher light you can shed on that - or, indeed, on other dangers. However, we are not without power ourselves. Whilst the laws of our Order prevent us from seeking to interfere in purely mundane disputes, we have no such restrictions against magical foes that might threaten ourselves or your village. In such circumstances, I hope we could be of aid to you."
The chieftan frowns. "I am afraid that I cannot tell you more than you doubtless already know--we do not know the identity of the attackers. Remember, though, that many peoples have lived in this land, and been swept aside in their turns. The landscape is filled with ancient forces of all descriptions, and only some of them are recorded my people's legends."
"I am sorry, if hardly surprised, to hear that. Discovering those who murdered our sodales is a matter of keen interest to us, as I am sure you understand. I would like to spend some time another day in speech with the keepers of your legends. Even if incomplete, I am sure they still contain much wisdom. I would also like to meet with other local practitioners of magic. Are there such in your village, or do you know of any elsewhere?"
"That depends on what you mean by 'practitioners of magic'. There is a wise woman in the village, who gives people beneficial herbs and the like, but she would hardly be a threat to you. As for those who might be a threat...well, as I said, we have only stories, and I'm sure that our stories don't take in all the peoples who have lived in this land."
Gregorius sighs again.
"Again, I would be interested to hear these stories another time, but let us move on to other matters. I am sure you must have questions you wish to ask of me."
The man thinks for a minute. "Having dealt with your Order before, I have few concerns. However, please know that these lands are ours, to graze our livestock, and to hunt. Should you take some animals to feed yourselves, we will not object, but please try not to do anything that would reduce the population of game.
"I do not believe the quantities of game we will consume will be large, but please let us know if you notice significant declines in stock levels.
I understand that the previous covenant excavated and sold stone for building. It will be a little time before we can get a similar operation in place, but should we do so, would it find a market with you? Also, I have seen that your village has fishing boats. Do you or could you have surplus which you could sell to us?"
The headman smiles at the mention of stone. "We still take rocks from the ruins, but we lack the ability to quarry fresh stone ourselves. As for boats, perhaps you could barter with one of our fishermen, or perhaps you could convince one of them to build you a new one."
Gregorius frowns slightly at the mistranslation, and instructs Theodoric:
"I had meant to say for us to buy fish from their fishermen to supplement the covenant supplies, rather than set up our own people fishing, although that could potentially also be worth looking into. Would you rephrase to mean that?"
Theodoric frowns in return, "Ah....You said you wanted their extra--you didn't say extra of what." He turns back to the Kipchak and repeats the amended request.
The headman responds, "I'm not sure how much we have to spare, but perhaps if we know you'll be wanting some, we could trade our fish for your stone?"
"A medium term issue, since it will take us some time to have the quarries working again, and we have brought a reasonable level of supplies with us, but something to work towards."
He pauses to see if the headsman has anything further to say on the topic. If he does not, he continues:
"One other matter. We are expecting to have other members of my Order visit us on occasions. I cannot yet tell how many or how frequent, although I do not believe either will be substantial. You may notice more strangers passing through the village than occurred with the previous covenant. Unfortunately those with the ability to work magic are often inherently unsettling to those around them, though they be no worse than other men. They will also likely not speak your language, and some may not have translators. I hope that this will not cause problems for you, but would ask that someone ferries such visitors to the riverbank near the covenant."
The man chuckles. "I think we can grow accustomed to them." He's then quite serious, though: "Make sure that they behave themselves."