Chapter 2c - Winter 1228 - In Search of a Singer

[OOC: This is a grog story arising out of Crafting a Song. Familiarity with that thread isn't necessary, though (as the grogs won't be familiar with the magae's discussions).]

Theodoric's character sheet is linked to here:
Bogdan and Godzimir's character sheets are here:

Players are Ironboundtome and Cuchulainshound - pick one of the sets of characters each.]

It's a freezing cold winter's morning when Niketas, the covenant's errand runner, finds you and instructs you that you're wanted by the maga Viola.

I'll take Bogdan and Godzimir, either together as a Rosencranz & Guildenstern style, or happy to just do one of them.

(OOC: jump in)

"Ah, yup. On it lad", Bogdan says nodding to Niketas. As the door closed he throws Godzimir's round shield on top of his inhabited bunk.
"oof. It's too early. What could she want?"
"Get up oaf. She's not one to wait."
"Uggghn. not der' worse magus to be called by though."
"don't start that!"
"look at her, but not at her ."
Godzimir grins, "don't know what you mean"

... (on the way)
"this way!"
"sure, if you like the smell of the outhouses. THIS way is better."
"just move you oaf"
grumbling, "tis too early by half"

As they arrive at Magus Viola's chambers Bogdan straightens his gear, seeing this Godzimir follows suit. Both a little nervous, and Godzimir clearly tired by the early call.

Not long after, Theodoric comes stumping in, shaking his arms in a heavy-weave peasant sweater around him to put some warmth back into it. The winter has prompted him to grow out his beard for warmth, and the silver there shines brighter than in his greying hair. He gives a quick, single nod to Bogdan and Godzimir together as he hitches up his belt a bit higher beneath the sweater, and looks to the maga, a hand in worn fingerless wool gloves absently straightening the thumb-long whiskers.

"You send for us then now, mistress?" he asks in imperfect Latin.

Viola nods, and uses her quill for clarity, since understanding is critical here.

"You...bring me storyteller, Theodoric. In Tana." The phatasmal tablet that the quill has become shows an image of Theodoric and the other grogs escorting a person with indistinct features (the cloaked figure could be either a man or a woman) from the nearby colony of Tana. "Musician?" she shrugs. "Maybe. But storyteller...good one. And Kipchak, yes? And he should understand Greek. Good Greek, yes?" The tablet flashes with pictures again, showing the person listening to Calliope sing in Greek, and then singing in Kipchak (or what Viola thinks Greek and Kipchak sound like, anyway).

"Promise money...or...well, find what the storyteller would like, yes?"

She looks at Theodoric, to see if he's understood what he's to do.


Theodoric has been through this before - the stuttering Latin (often some of it beyond is understanding, despite her best efforts to "dumb it down") combined with the magical pictures to show what she was trying to say. He always found the pictures remarkable, fascinating, sometimes even distracting from the message, even for the most simple images - an unknown figure in a cloak. Magic...

He nodded slowly as he thought and chose his words to support the best Latin he knew.

"Yes - I am thinking. We will go at Tana, and finds a storyteller, and brings storyteller here, at you. Storyteller is him or her, and is good to make storytell, and also good to talk Greek - good Greek - and to talk Kipchak. Maybe sing, but maybe no. We will give money or what is at storyteller, so no problem. Storyteller wants... food, we give food - wants flute, we give good flute. No problem, and we bring storyteller here. Yes?"

If the maga seems satisfied with his understanding, he will add...

"Mistress, I have questions three..." Some phrases he had used many times, and were more familiar than others. "Is it for to go only us three, or more, and if who? And storyteller - are they wait for us and will know us, or this is surprise? And do you give us of money now for storyteller, or only we will make promise of but no of money truly?... Oh - ", he added, with a gesture of apology, "questions four, sorry - but if storyteller wants big something - very big something? How big is whatever? Or just is to make lie okay? And if storyteller says 'no'?..."

Theodoric was a clear thinker, and he could anticipate some problems before they arose. But sometimes he wished he had a magical slate.

Viola motions to the three grogs: "Just you." As for the other questions, she just shrugs. "Negotiate, yes? You know...covenant."


Bogdan and Godzimir both smile, and nod in understanding. They each try to offer encouraging words, to demonstrate to Viola and Theodoric that they have understood. Godzimir's eyes do not leave Viola, and Bogdan is looking frequently between Viola and Theodoric as he watches the conversation.

"No hurt. Friend make."
"Make happy, he come."

Bogdan says "What do we offer him? A job?"
"we ask Theodoric after. Shut it."

If that seems to be the end of the interview, Theodoric gives a bow of his head and a pull on a forelock, and with a couple initial steps back turns, signals the others to follow, and walks out of the room - but not yet into the cold, stopping short of the heavy door to explain what just happened - or as best he understands it.

He takes a deep breath - and once again rues not having a magic tablet. He speaks Greek, the brothers Rus and Turkish, so Latin the their only shared tongue, and he knows theirs is only worse than his. He chooses his words carefully...

"Well boys... cold walk for us. We go at Tanas, and find a storyteller - you knows "storyteller"? One person what makes stories, tells history, plays music..." he pantomines strumming on a stringed instrument and blowing on a flute, altho' his expressiveness is predictably that of a warrior and not a jongleur. "...Storyteller who sings. Good storyteller - the most best we are to find. We try for to make friend of storyteller - promise money, promise good things - so bring storyteller here. But we must bring storyteller here, to Viola. Understand?"

He waits, makes sure there is at least as much understanding as usual, and then adds.

"Good enough. You've had breakfast?... good. Go pack for a long trip. Meet in the kitchen, get some food for the road, and then we leave. Let's get moving..."

Viola had no money for them, so he'll go find Phocas to let him know what he's up to and why and get some traveling coin for an extended stay (enough for an inn and food once they get to Tanas, and back, and possibly something extra to tempt a storyteller - not everyone would travel in this weather on a promise), then pack while the stonemason is off getting that arranged, and then catch up to the brothers in the kitchen for something warm in the belly and supplies before they leave.

(OOC - How far is Tanas? How many days normally? And what is the weather - "icy" - snow on the ground? more to fall possibly?
Survival 3 + Int 2 - Do we need a mule for serious camping gear to survive this trip? He has some Area Lores at 2-3 also.)

Theodoric knows Tana a bit - it's a new settlement on the opposite side of the Don river delta, which has grown up since the previous covenant was first founded. It's largely a trading point - people bring various goods (mostly furs and slaves) down the river Don, and then they're transferred to sea going ships at Tana.

The good news is that it's only about 10 miles away as the crow flies. The bad news is that said crow would be flying over 10 miles of river delta - masses of small and larger rivelets and marsh. The temperature is hovering around freezing - so not cold enough for there to be reliable thick ice (especially close to the sea), but cold enough for the water to be dangerous.

There are a couple of alternative routes you could take - if you go inland, you'll eventually get to the point where there's only one river to cross, although you'll still have to find a way to cross it. Theodoric estimates this would probably be around a 30 mile trip, although he's not very familiar with the further reaches of the journey.

Alternatively, you could try to hire a fishing boat to sail you round. This is probably the most expensive option, but also the easiest.

Bogdan nods and moves off, with Godzimir yawning and dragging his feet behind him. But after a few dozen paces both brothers are in matched step with each other, and beginning some banter about what else they might do in the city. Godzimir has that wry smile again, as he pokes jest at Bogdan last misadventure of romance several seasons ago. Packing their gear is simple and quick, with both grogs opting to carry their javelins and small knives rather than take large swords into a city.

(ooc - assuming that carrying weapons and such in a city is a no-go here as it is in the west)

Their spirits are high when they reach the kitchens. "up, off, away we go. we'll never get there if we never go"

Bogdan quips holing up several of the packs, feigning a sad face, "Hey Theodoric, we've only got three little packs. How will we carry all the food that lug here needs?" "Ha!" murmurs Godzimir, "you'll of course be smelling like your horse again. Will she miss you so?"

then Bogdan asks more seriously, "...Theodoric what are we going to offer the Skomorokh? He'll need a promise and pay"

On that last, I may be guilty of ignorance again - don't know which magi are "guests" and which "members.

And on an unrelated point, re the Grog Thread* - I thought Theodoric had Latin 3, but he has Latin 4. His conversation w/ Viola should not have been quite so broken - my mistake.

(* Chapter 2c - Winter 1228 - In Search of a Singer - )

To be perfectly clear, he asked several questions and only got the answer "she just shrugs. "Negotiate, yes? You know...covenant." - which really isn't an answer.

  1. "And storyteller - are they wait for us and will know us, or this is surprise?"

T wasn't sure if we were "meeting" this person, or seeking someone specific who would then recognize us, or if we are headhunting. I've gathered the latter, IC and OOC.

  1. "And do you give us of money now for storyteller, or only we will make promise of but no of money truly?"

That was uglier than it should have been. Viola is not giving us money, so I have to assume she did not expect nor want us to make any sort of downpayment ("This now, & much more later"), only the promise of money if/once they returned to the Covenant.

  1. "but if storyteller wants big something - very big something? How big is whatever? Or just is to make lie okay? And if storyteller says 'no'?..."

Really never got an answer on this one - "Negotiate, Covenant" doesn't address it one way or the other. T knows what he's going to do if it comes to that, but IC does V really trust a Grog to make that sort of decision for her?

Just making sure she, IC, left it at that. :wink:

"Sko- skomokoko... wha'? Is that the word for who we want? But yes, I know - I'll talk to Phocus about some coins..."

(OoC - Good point - What are the laws/expectations re weapons in the "city" of Tanas? Swords? If wrapped up and "peace tied" - they'll be wanted on the road there, if not in the city itself. Short swords better than longswords? Non-edged over edged? Or do we have to fall all the way back to staves/clubs to be more "socially acceptable?)

Theodoric will share these options with Phocas, and with an eye to the weather*, he'll lean toward walking. He's a cautious man, and altho' not afraid of the water, he sees no need to hurry unless there might be bad weather in a couple days that might hurt hiking - but not so immediately threatening as to make boating dangerous. He'll also ask if Phocus knows whether any magi can tell the weather.

(* Int +2, Per +1; Survival 3 (steppes), Black Sea Lore 2 (northern coast), Don Delta Lore 2 (Tanais & vicinity))

Keep in mind that the typical maga may not know how this sort of thing is done.... :slight_smile:

Since you've gotten it OOC, that's fine, but Theodoric is welcome to ask her.

Most magi don't deal in money--that's the autocrat's job. He'll come to Viola if there's something unreasonable that you request.

Basically, Viola is leaving it up to Theodoric to figure out. She doesn't know how best to do it--she just wants it done, and she's trusting that Theodoric can make that happen.


Phocas will give you 120 silver pennies (half a pound).

[For reference, the rough price guidelines I'm using are those from Covenants and/or City&Guild:

  • 2 weeks of travel and accommodation for 2 magi and half a dozen grogs: half a pound.
  • Hire of a skilled workman: 2 pence per day.
  • Hire of a master craftsman: 5 pence per day.]

Usual practice with weapons is that you're allowed to carry weapons on your way in or out of the city, but should leave weapons above knive with the innkeeper during your stay. That said, it's a new frontier town, so unless you're armed to the teeth it's unlikely to be pulled up on it unless you're either obviously armed to the teeth or get pulled up on something else (at which point you're likely to at the least have the weapons confiscated, but may well be charged over them as well).

The weather currently looks fairly clear, although there's a cold wind. Phocus isn't aware that any of the magi are able to forecast the weather. He does ask Theodoric what his plans for crossing the watercourses he encounters are.

Theo will suggest that the brothers take something less obvious than longswords or javelins - something that doesn't stand out quite so much in the city, that might be (half-)hidden under a cloak.He likes a longsword himself, but is going to take a shortsword, with a good club as a backup in his pack. He reminds them that the trip isn't long or expected to be dangerous, that there won't be a lot of bandits on the road in Winter, and if their swords get confiscated the covenant blacksmith isn't going to be able to make a very good replacement, if any.

They'll be in town, and a long scabbard will both attract attention and might be awkward, while a shortsword - or something about that size, their choice - is often better to have indoors anyway.

(assuming there is no nearby ford/ferry...)

"Go upriver until we find a fishing boat, and hire that. Far safer and cheaper - and might even be faster - than finding a sea-boat to hire, and taking that long trip. We can't be the first who want to get across the river."

[Just checking you're on the same page as me with the local geography:

You're trying to get from here: ... 67308be2b7

To what is now Azov here: ... 67308be2b7 ]

Note that there has been quite a bit of silt deposited since the time of the story, so everything's closer to the sea. The sea boat is therefore not a particularly long trip (although it's six or seven miles to get to the village, which does add up).]

That's what i'd gathered, I just wanted to make sure that this player's "fun with mangling language" didnt' get in the way of more realistic IC communication.

[i](OOC - that helps - thanks! - but it doesn't answer questions like...

How close is the nearest area for boats?
How easy/likely is it to find a boat?
How close do they drop us off? (Do they go upriver again or just on the shore, and if so then What is the trek from shore to Tanas like?)
How often has T done this, one way and/or the other?
What has he heard of those who try either way? Bandits, pirates, storms, critters, moonies, other?
What, besides distance, are the obstacles to going upriver (maybe to about Rostov?) and crossing there?

If we were sitting face to face, all that might be reaonable to ask/answer - but here, it would take too long imo.

T is "cautious" but he's (specifically) no coward. He's a "Clear Thinker", so he'll weigh the fact that there is no great hurry (afahk) against the pain of walking further, and against the "reliability" (or lack thereof) of local open-water travel.

In the end, you, the SG, will have to tell me which is most attractive to my character. (Or, admitting it or not, which way works better for the story!)

In short - you tell me. :confused: )[/i]

There's a fishing village at the mouth of the river the covenant is on, which the covenant has good relations with and which has often ferried their people (and more to the point, their goods) up and down the river (although not previously along the coast). It's about six or seven miles away, and there's a path along the river. This is the simplest and (barring storms) most predictable option, albeit also the most expensive, and is the one I'd originally assumed you'd take.'s winter, and storms certainly aren't unheard of (and in the shallow sea, the waves tend to be quite large), but it's comfortably under a day's travel by boat, so you'll have to be fairly unlucky to be hit by a storm as long as you're careful when you put to sea. There's no particular pirate problem that you're aware of, although Theodoric has only a rough idea of what happens in the southern reaches of the Black Sea.

Tana is being built on what is currently the coast (the silt builds up fast - Tanais was on the coast in greek times).

Inland, the plains have wolves and big cats. Theodoric has often hunted on said plains, though, so they're not a no-go area by any means. The marshes have fewer large predators, although you'll still get the big cats sometimes. Bandits aren't a particular problem, although it's conceivable one of the local tribes could cause you problems.

Rostov doesn't exist as a settlement at this time. The main obstacle is distance, and getting across the river - although as boats do come down it to trade at Azov, you should be able to find someone willing to take you across - it just might take a while.

Theodoric has gone to Tana a couple of times, but that was a while ago now.

Viola has a Com of -2. In other words, IC, her ability to express herself clearly is pretty hideous--it's when I write coherently for her that I'm breaking character a bit, though I only do it when she's talking to faeries or another Merinita.