Chapter 5 (Autumn 1013): Into Galloway

Ealhstan with Thadeus walking beside, enters the village and examines the situation. Do they have the hungry eyes he saw riding North from Chester? is the war otherwise apparent here? Do they seem afraid of strangers in their midst? He heads towards the blacksmith working.

Thadeus cannot see any trace of the Magic Realm, as expected.

The townsfolk do not appear to suffer like the people you have seen in England. It is not a wealthy town, and there is no market or vendors of imported goods as far as you can see. The craftsmen seem to work with local goods.

Some eyebrows are raised at the sight of the horse, but nobody approaches. The blacksmith is hammering out nails, but looks up when you arrive.

Good morning, sir. You need your horse shoed?

Ealhstan looks at the Horse then at Thadeus, "I do... or Clover needs it," he says patting the placid mare on the neck, "Clover is a good girl? Isn't she."

When the blacksmith begins to work he says, "Any news lately? Particularly from up North way? Dunwald or elsewhere? strange travelers?"

When the Blacksmith is almost finished with the shoing, "Oh, we were also looking for a group of soldiers who might have come through here about a year ago... I don't know, maybe [insert the rough number of the party we are looking for which I assume Caelha would have told us]. Some of them might have struck folks as odd. Did you see or hear of a group like that passing through then?"

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The smith goes to work, carefully checking each foot before starts replacing nails.

Dunwald? There is not much left there since last Winter. I don't think anyone took much interest in it since the calamity.

He looks up to gauge Ealhstan's reaction.

Oh! You didn't know? Well I can here that you are not from here, so what's your interest?

He can confirm that a group of English soldiers were staying at Dunwald, but the calamity was due to «them Giants and Warlocks from the Galloway Hills». Thankfully, it is quite here; they leave us alone, he adds, and that's about all he knows.

"You've called it the Calamity... was it something more than what often happens when Giants and Warlocks are involved?"

If he knows nothing more Ealhstan asks, "Is there anyone else in the village who might know more? Maybe a hunter or someone who's been to market?"

The smiths gasps. «What do you mean often? Have they razed other villages? This is the only one I have seen. There have been stories, but not such ... devastation.»

He refers you to Benvy. «She used to live in Dunwald, but when her parents were killed, she took a post here with the miller. She saw it first hand.»

It does not take a lot of persuasion to get Benvy's story, although it pains her to tell it, and she gets tears in her eyes.

The English wizards had visited us a few times before, and they were going to help us against the warlocks from Galloway Hills. A couple of villagers had mysteriously disappeared over the last year, and we blamed the warlocks. A foul bands they were, worshipping demons, and I am sure they made evil sacrifices.

I am not sure what happened, but I think we must have been betrayed. Malcolm Greyhood had left at dusk with no word, and I am sure he had something to do with it. Only the wizard they call Tacitus was in the village with twenty or thirty men; the other two were out scouting. We were just falling asleep when it happened. Black creatures rising from the ground; black as fertilised soil.

The black creatures went straight for the wizard, knocking over cottages in their way. The men-at-arms fought bravely, but by the time they had defeated the blackies, Tacitus was on the ground, with several wounds, and many men were dead.

Then the warlocks moved in to finish him off. Just like that; pooff and he was gone. The warlocks looted the bodies and left, but the village was no more. Most of the survivors moved away to family elsewhere. Only one or two villeins remain trying to salvage the remains and rebuild their farms.

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Thadeus' face is thight with anger as he listens to Benvy's tale. "Damn sons of..." He cuts himself off, slightly embarassed by his muttered outburst.

Looking at Benvy after a moment, he asks, "Did the other two wizards, who were scouting, return? Or any of their men?"

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"Benvy," Ealhstan interjects forgetting that Thadeus is a magus for a moment, "would you be willing to tell your experience to our masters? What you have told us so far would be of great value to us and they may have further questions for you. They are just up the road back there and we were going to travel through anyway. I can ride back and get them to come into town."

«Maybe. I don't know; I did not talk to them again, but I think one of them came to investigate, and for the burial.»

«Your masters?» She blushes. «I suppose. Are they friends of master Tacitus?»

She does not object, and it does not take long to get the magi. Benvy eyes them suspiciously and the story is less coherent when she tells it again, interrupted by awkward glances at the not so gently Gifted magi, but they do get the same gist of it.

Cath'rinne still flies from a distance. She's keeping an eye for anyone approaching, anyonr leaving to report oj their presence, and only approaches to have an update on what's going on once they've left the village.

After Benvy has left Once they have left Benvy, Thadeus will note, "Tacitus may not be dead. It may be a Twilight. Still, we should visit the site of the battle."

Benvy does not leave. You saw her at her place. May Thadeus made his remark while getting the other magi, or maybe when they all leave afterwards.

When you have got the information you want, you can get a boatman take you across the river, or you can head upriver on the Eastern side towards Dunwald. You will have to cross the river at some point, but there are probably fords or bridges upriver.

“So we may be facing elementals summoned by the enemy, powerful foe indeed. I think the sudden disappearance of Tacitus sounds more like a movement spell being cast on him rather than a twilight episode as he was down and out before his disappearance as opposed to casting a spell, which could have caused twilight. As such I am hopeful he lives. I do wonder what magics are being deployed to stop our three missing magi from casting their way out of their captivity?” States Janus on the journey back.

"She said she thought one of the magi returned for the burial. They may not be captured at all, though it would explain why they have not made it home, there may be other explanations," Ealhstan says, "Perhaps they are attempting to determine a way to rescue others, perhaps Tacitus. Perhaps they are convalescing, Tacitus unable to be moved, harmed so badly and they are with friends. It need not be the worst that you believe, mayhaps merely the arcane connections they carried from home were destroyed or something else, I can not be certain either."

"So, do we move on to Dunwald? Is there anything else we may learn here? Talk to some who may have spoken to the magus at the funeral?"

Ealhstan nods at Thadeus' suggestion. Possibly more a nod of approval for a young magus displaying wisdom that any sort of decision making.

“Good idea Thadeus, why don’t you arrange that” replies Janus

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Thadeus nods and motions to Ealhstan, before going back to talk tp Benvy again. "You mentioned that one of the wizards came back for the funeral. Do you notice or know anyone who talked to him?" If so, he'll ask if they'd be willing to speak with he and Ealhstan.

When out of earshot from her (probably before), Thadeus asks Ealhstan, "Think we should offer the villagers to help them? In particular those who were displaced from Dunwald, who need to rebuild?"

On the way to Benvy, when Thadeus asks, "You do not know where you will settle, but it can't hurt to offer. Some, like Benvy, seem to have made a life for themselves already but, perhaps, others have not been so lucky and are living cramped with friends or family. It would be the Christian thing to see if it is necessary but may be wise to leave them here and offer to return with an offer when you and the others have found a patch. You may also get the dregs of the town, the loafs."

Thadeus shakes his head, "Not recruit them. I meant something we could offer them to help rebuild their life here. If we have any supplies to spare, or a few coins, or a goat -- if we had any."

He shrugs, "It may more be something Ungulus should do, but we are here. They are not. Some would say buying goodwill. For next time we have questions."