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

Ealhstan seems a little taken aback at the word "tumble" but the moment of shock quickly passes into a smile and, in Welsh [obviously non-native but fluent, 4], "Well your Latin may be good enough for that extra level of... um, sophistication you get with being literate." A wink and switching to English, "I hear the women of Toulouse are all aflutter at poems about love, Jack the Giantess Woo-er, how you think about that?" An easy smile crossing his face, "Might be you could find another means of defeating them... though finding a bed large enough may be difficult."

And now upon the rest of the group, he lifts the tablets and says, "Wasn't sure which one to grab so I took them both," then, directed at Caelha, "I can tell you of how Magvillus protects their precious writings, even from folks such as me given comparatively good access. Books and papers are precious, lass, you never know what sort of vagabonds will enter your covenant unannounced... or be let in such as the likes of Jack here." Indicating Jack next to him with his thumb.

"Bed? Can count on one hand the tumbles I had in a bed," says Jack. "Beds're are for rich nobles and the like. Don't need to add their lice to what I already got!"

The big fellow laughs at Eahlstan's jokes and chatter about the women of Toulouse but grows quiet again as they meet back with the others, unsure whether or not Eahlstan is making him the butt of a joke about vagabonds.

Once Luciu is healed and settled in, Thom excuses himself politely and heads out to explore and wander.

The handsome young man takes a quick look at the library, taking particular note of the faerie related spells and magic lore tractati. As Thom peruses the library, his expression darkens, memories of the library of Castrum Antiquum rising from early in his apprenticeship. Shaking his head after a moment, the young man heads down and out to check on the goats and the nisse.

Once outside, Thom walks about the grounds casually and with a friendly manner. Nodding quiet greetings to any of the grogs or covenfolk he sees. The young Merinita is paying attention as he walks about, keeping track in his keen mind the numbers of people he sees, the count of livestock. He doesn't hesitate to use Second Sight to get a sense of what may be hidden about Ungulus, looking in particular for any signs of regiones or anything else that seems odd or particularly innovative.

He asks one of the covenfolk where the goats may have gotten to and heads in that direction, keeping his eye out for the nisse.

Janus took the recovery aide, since nobody has offered the vis to cast a ritual. (He rolled it in a previous post.)

It is not a problem. If something disappears, we shall manage to find you and claim it back.

After a few days, the nisse has settled in one of the sheds, and got himself busy making the animals comfortable.

There is nothing out of the ordinary in the immediate vicinity. The covenant seems to have livestock and croplands for a lot more people than you have seen, but then there are these people out on campaign, so that's reasonable enough. The ordinary, of course, includes some spirits that are usually just ignored. Even those who see them with second sight will learn to ignore them; they are everywhere.

Over the weeks remaining of the season, I suspect you travel further, but I'll get back to that when I have heard from everyone.

Caela is eager to discuss the next campaign. «You should make sure to leave before Autumn, so that you have good chances to return before Winter.» At the same time, she is hoping for further reinforcements any time.

"I have no urge to steal, lass. But the security I am used to at Magvillus's library seems... er, completely nonexistent."

Good for you. I have never been to Magvillus, but I am sure they do what's right for them.

Edwin will politely ask if the covenant needs any help with running the farmlands, or if they need anything trading for.

Edwin. and anybody else with any kind of social antennæ, quickly see that every hand is needed. «You may think we are hoarding, sir, but the turb may be back from Loch Leglean any time, and then there are thrice as many mouths to feed,» says Milburg the stewardess, «and we sell a bit in Carlisle too; it grants us some goodwill. An extra hand is always welcome, fishing or plowing.»

Osgar can point out a number of overdue repairs. Leaking roofs on a cowshed, a door that does not close properly, and some broken furniture. «There is simply too much to do, and not enough people.»

Caelha is most concerned with campaign planning; «are you handy? If you talk to the grogs, there is a lot of field equipments that needs repairs. If you are the studious type, on the other hand, I would like a second opinion on these maps; where would Tacitus have been most likely to run into the Diedne?»

There is plenty to do. Edwin's initiative is warmly appreciated, but I do not know whom he would approach first ... After a week or two, a trade trip to Carlisle is planned, and Edwin is welcome to join, or even take charge.

Edwin assists with looking at the maps, and is delighted to take part in the trade expedition to Carlisle.

Ealhstan puts work in where unskilled labor is needed. He unfortunately does not have many useful skills for around the covenant except, perhaps, being a pretty poor hunter and tracker. But he can swing a shovel or kneed some bread and even does not behave as if he is above helping with the wash or muck slopping. He has a chatty, easy demeanor and tries to pry gossip from the covenfolk and grogs while helping with necessary duties.

[I'm shooting for using Intrigue (gossip) to learn a bit more about what is known at the covenant about what's going on but may just hear their greatest fears of husbands on campaign and whatnot.]

When the trip to Carlisle is made he will happily volunteer and he still worries this blight on the land may not be natural and that desperation may be drawing out the forces of darkness, granting them more power than they already have. Learning more from local clergy is deifnitely on his mind though he knows, better than most, that even they are not immune to the wiles of demons and their mortal minions.

Over a couple of days, it is not hard to get talking with the covenfolk. Everyone is eager for news, stories, and rumour. Ealhstan gets a good story about the campaign two years ago, where a couple of the shield grogs took part in the siege of a Diedne covenant North of the wall. It was a scary experience with wraiths haunting them every night, but the magi to good care of them and the covenant fell.

Most of the covenfolk have been at Ungulus for more than five years, and they have seen magi and shield grogs coming and going, with the covenant serving as rally point. It is the lords' war though, and they do not really know why they are fighting, except that the Diedne are dangerous and Evil.

Edwin and Ealhstan. Anybody else? Any magi?

The trip to Carlisle is not for Janus. His Blatant Gift makes him a real liability in such situations. He will work on the next stage of the military response to find the missing magi.

Jack offers to tag along if he's not needed to protect Master Luciu.

"What's it take to learn this readin' shite?" he asks Ealhstan one evening during a meal.

"It would be nothing much. Just a bit of tutoring in your letters, many children can learn them and I can see you have much more wit than most children, Jack," Ealhstan replies.

Luciu spends his time quietly recuperating, once he is able to walk, he takes to visiting the library. He also speaks with Caela whenever she is willing, discussing philosophy with her, attempting to find out how far along she was in her apprenticeship, and what she studied; and if it seems she didn't study Mentem, he subtly peers into her mind to learn more about her, her history, goals and intentions.