Chapter 2 (Summer 1013). Hiding under Hadrian's Wall

The party settles down in the little hamlet. The cottages are small, and the room is nowhere near enough for labs, or even for a little privacy. Seeing it as a peasant, in contrast, you have plenty of living space for the small party. The grogs go hunting and forraging, and meals improve rapidly. In addition to the dried fish, you get venison and goats' milk. Given the time to rest and eat properly, you realise how fatigued you have been, and how strenuous the journey was. A new daily routine forms around the cottages, as you arrange all the daily chores: collecting water, fire wood, hunting, and latrine.

Abandoned for years, the woods have been intruding on what has once been grassland around the cottages, but the grogs have at least cleared the courtyard between the four building, giving room to work in daylight. The two cottages, the shed, and the ruins of the third cottage enclose the courtyard. Dawn is late in the day because of the hills to the East. To the Southwest you overlook the valley below, and the sunlight is good from noon to late in the evening.

Paths can be found through the woods, but it takes time effort since they are all overgrown, making the hamlet difficult to find if you do not know where to look.

The party, at this point, consists of Janus and Luciu as magi, Edwin the autocrat, two shield grogs, a glassblower, and a scribe. All the four last of the covenfolk have travelled with Luciu.

The three goats provide milk, and after a week fourth goat appears mysteriously in the shed one morning. It is not a kid. The shed looks remarkably tidy; they have not put that much effort in, remark the grogs. This is when Luciu notices the aura. The goat shed, and only the shed, has a faerie aura of 2.

You meet the villagers again once or twice. Shortly after your first visit, they went to the market at Wallsend, and with new supplies they look happier and less tense. They still do not have much surplus to sell, though, and they are remarkably disinterested in silver. You are able to get some oats and barley in exchange for venison though, and this helps to vary your diet.

Towards the end of the seasons, you have recovered your strengths, and it is time to decide what to do with the rest of your lives. A fifth goat has come wandering into the stables unsolicited, and now comes a young magus ...

That's your cue, @Bartomeus , but no rush, there are more characters in the making.

A young man, handsome and slender, walks casually toward the goat shed. Anyone watching him might even consider his gait to be a kind of wandering one, not unlike the goat: pausing here, taking a new direction there, but all the while drawing nearer. When the blond young man gets closer to the shed, he pauses, looking carefully at the wooden structure.

The young man is clad in simple clothes, as if out for a hunt or a hike: simple leather boots, breeches, a leather jerkin over a simple shirt, a short cloak. His long blond hair is pulled back, held by a leather thong. He has a bow and a quiver of arrows, though the bow is unstrung. He has a simple hunting knife in a sheathe on his belt and a pouch. The young man is clearly out for a brief excursion, not a multi-day trip.

He approaches the goat shed carefully, watchful.

(Unlike the goat, presumably, Thomas refreshed his parma to start the day and cast Wizard's Sidestep, Doublet of Impenetrable Silk, and Aura of Ennobled Presence as his practice when he's out wandering.)

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Not seeing anyone about, the young man looks more closely at the goat shed, going so far as to poke his head in the doorway. [He activates Wayfarer's Friend to engage Piercing the Faerie Veil.]

The young man looks about, paying particular attention to see if he can spot any people or faeries hanging about inside the shed.

Edwin, wearing much rougher clothes than usual, walks out to attend to the goats as the one source of milk they have. He wishes they were wealthy enough to have fields to plough and a large enough herd to require a professional goatherd, but for now the way to fill his belly is through these goats.

Seeing someone near the goat shed, he calls out "Who is there!"

The young man looks over at the voice, brow furrowing, perhaps not expecting to meet people in what he has always known as an abandoned cluster of cottages.

"Hallo there!" he responds, staying near the door to the shed in case he needs to beat a hasty retreat into the regiones.

"You're getting' quite the goat herd here."

There should be no surprise in the encounter, since the Old Wizard would have brought home gossip from the village, and the suggestion that they settle in this hamlet would have been mentioned. That they keep goats may be more of a surprise. Not something travellers would normally keep.

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Luciu is out for his morning walk. A short, thin man in his thirties, he is surprisingly well groomed for the wilderness, cleanshaven but with a large moustache, and short black hair.

He ambles over toward the conversation, raising a hand in greeting. "Hello there! Edwin, do we have a guest?"

The young man raises a hand in greeting to the short, thin, mustachioed man. "Morning."

"The Geezer said folks were in the old village. Goats even. Goats even coming to you, it seems."

Edwin turns to Luciu and says "We do indeed have a visitor!"

He nods at the stranger and says "Well, the goats give us milk so we're not starving. We still need to do a lot of work to improve things around here."

"I bet they do help. Goats are good for that," says the young man to the two, still standing by the shed. "Was just a little surprised to see this goat wandering into the shed on its own, no goatherd to be seen."

The handsome young man smiles mischievously.

"I'm Thom. Thom Myddleton. I live over that way… with the Geezer," he chuckles softly. "What brings you out to this forsaken stretch of the Wall?"

"Well, I'm following Luciu and his companions. My old home, the covenant of the White Horse, was wrecked by war and I had to flee. When I met Luciu, I suggested places I had heard of and we decided to try around here. There's some interesting spots around."

Edwin nods at Luciu, then says "How is the Old Wizard? Is he keeping well?"

Thom takes a step backwards at Edwin's words, tension growing across his shoulders, stance and eyes.

"You're from the Order?" asks Thom seriously, carefully. "Which Houses do you belong to?"

Luciu answers, "I'm from House Guernicus. I was sent to England to answer certain questions, but not as a fighter."

"Is it over then? The war?" asks Thom, looking at Luciu and then Edwin.

"I don't know for sure. I think there are still battles happening in the remotest areas - places Diedne fled to. What of you? Are you of the Order? Or do you just know of it? We heard rumors about an old wizard around here, we looked for him for a little while, but he's either good at hiding, or gone. Do you know anything of him?"

Thom listens carefully, eyes still shifting between the two men, hesitant.

"Yes, sodales. I am of the Order. Thomas Myddleton ex Merinita." He speaks with a kind of formality.

"The 'Old Wizard' you speak of is still here, yes. She… I mean he is my parens, but when the Wars came, we… withdrew."

Luciu nods in acknowledgement. "Good to meet you, sodalis. Can you tell me - is this a covenant? or was it? Or just a place where someone hid from the war? We came up here searching for a covenant in the shadow of Hadrian's Wall, but we couldn't find it - at least, not yet."

Thomas shakes his head slowly, sadness in his eyes, before gesturing back in the general direction of Hadrian's wall and the destroyed turret tower. "The covenant was known as Castrum Antiquum, but I'm not sure the charter even holds at this point." The handsome young man looks down at the ground.

"It was horrible. The attack. The Diedne and giants…" Thom goes silent for a moment.

"It was five years ago when they attacked. The assault was so fierce that Castrum Antiquum's earthly link was severed. The Geezer … The Old Wizard says that the covenant drifted into a regio. We hid there ever since. The two of us. And the soldiers. They are there in the regio too. We finished my apprenticeship while in hiding. And my gauntlet was complete a couple years ago."

Thomas pauses, sighing softly.

"You see, the tower here in the mundane world was destroyed by the attack. Over there it is small. Cramped. Only the two of us left who are of the Order. So no, it isn't really a covenant anymore. Not like it was. And it won't be again. It's no fit place for our work anymore."

Edwin shakes his head. "I was the autocrat of the Covenant of the White Horse, but it was destroyed over a year ago. I found some surviving magi by a huge battlefield with many dead Diedne. It seems to be over, but we're still searching for a standing covenant."

Luciu nods. "That's very sad. This war has caused so much loss and sorrow, all across the Order..." such a huge mistake, he thinks but doesn't say. "We found a regio, with soldiers, but it seemed too small to house a covenant. Now I understand. I thought about exploring deeper into the regio, but I felt it was too risky, the soldiers had no notion that it wasn't still the time of Rome. Now I wonder if that would have led us to you, or if it was just another piece. You're both welcome to join us, as we look for a new site, if you want."