Hildegard was waiting for the others by the great stone at the assigned day. Her robes were in tatters, and her left arm bandaged. She looked terribly tired. Arturous was nowhere to be seen.
The road travels on, the brook his friend
And weary the tread of the homeward bound.
But the brook burbles on and the road doth bend
And lighter the step of the lover found.
Carolinus smiles, ending his song, as the small caravan of wagons and people rumbles to a halt near the stone. He climbs awkwardly from the wagon, and calls out to the small maga, Salve, Hildegard! I seem to have acquired a parade! But his smile slips when he sees her sad condition. He turns back toward the company, his smile back in place, and calls out Rest here for a while good people. We'll be home soon. Limping toward Hildegard, he asks softly, I am glad to see you Hildegard, but not in such a state. What misadventure has befallen you?
Hildegard looks up and tells him: "It's a long story. To make it short: Someone had totally destroyed the remains of the village and the surrounding woods while we were giving our report in Durenmar. When Arturous and I came back to Waldstein, we were attacked by fairies of the forest as enemies of House Diedne. Arturous was slain, I was lucky to survive.
To save my life, I sued for peace and the fairy spokesman, a human hedge wizard, has granted us a cease of hostilities. They understand that our attack on them was a misunderstanding, and they are willing to give us a second chance if we try to bring those to justice that are responsible for the attack that happened after we left. It seems like a number of high-ranking fairies were grieveously wounded in that battle. The fairies also believe themselves bound in ancient pacts with the House That is No More.
So we can now move to Waldstein and start building. It is there that Arturous is buried. We will have to be careful and diplomatic, though to avoid sharing his fate."
A confusing array of emotions cross Lynchessa face, as she hears this news. [color=grey]"Destroyed? But surely this can't....or rather, this must be what my Gild leaders meant when they said that there would be cause to force my appointment* to the covenant. Did they predict this, or do you think they already knew of it? When did the assault occur?"
She pauses for a deep breath, to regain control over her emotions. [color=grey]"Oh, I beg your pardon. I am glad to see that you are unharmed, Hilde...gard." Lycnhessa almost refers to her with a sense of familiarity, before using her full name. [color=grey]"I believe this sort of diplomacy falls to me, for my sins, though I'll gratefully accept any help. Let us get to the site, unload, and then I will treat with this diplomat, and attempt to investigate the attack."
Later, after the wagons begin moving again, she'll mutter under her breath, [color=grey]"Two magi dead and the first foundation stone is not even laid! Surely, this place is cursed, as they say."
Carolinus grimaces at the mention of the faeries, and pales when he hears of Arturos' death. He listens somberly to Hildegard's story. We have suffered a grievious loss with the death of our brother. And it seems we must pay for it with this investigation. I am almost loathe to enter this wood again, but failing to investigate the true criminals would dishonor Arturos' sacrifice.
He glances quizzically at Lynchessa. I am not sure how sinfulness bears diplomacy. Perhaps diplomacy might bear information; I will go with you to talk to the faerie's spokesman. A grin sneaks back to Carolinus' face, but does not touch his eyes. Let us hope this parlay fares better than our first. Worse fare would taste of ashes for us all.
Carolinus makes sure his face is composed before turning back to the wagons. Friends, he calls out to the would-be covenfolk, a misunderstanding has led to the loss of one of our number. But his death has bought us peace, and we push onward in his honor. Let us mourn later for there is much yet to do. Carolinus hauls himself back on the lead wagon seat, and nodding to the driver to move the caravan forward, starts singing a song of bravery, hope, and coming home.
[size=85]ooc: Carolinus is using enchanting music to strengthen the hearts of the mundanes.
Music: +4 (lute) +2 Com +9 = 15
Enchanting Music: +2 +2 Com +9 = 13
The wagons rumble into the forest. Hildegard sits on one of the wagons, and soon falls into an exhausted sleep, but not before answering Lynchessa's question:
"As I said, it was a few days after we left Waldstein. The hedge wizard claims that 6 people appeared out of thin air, investigated the site briefly, collected something and then unleashed mighty magic that burned it completely before disappearing again. The fire upset the forest fairies and when we came to the site, we were mistaken for the perpetrators."
There used to be a path, but it has been half reclaimed by nature, so the going is slow. The forest is utterly quiet and seems to warily await them. As they approach the clearing that used to be Waldstein, the air is filled with a strong smell of burned wood. The village and about a hundred paces around in a perfect circle are the remains of a great fire. Nothing remains of the huts and trees but little pieces of charcoal. The little stream running by is clear, but the banks are still covered with ashes.
As they stop their wagons in the clearing, a man emerges out of the woods on the other side. Hildegard, awakened by the stop, blinks and says: "That's him. He calls himself the Druid."
Honorus' face grimaces when the mage is refereed to as a Druid but composes himself.
We will have to talk with him to find out what we need to do to work with these Fairy Lords. We must become as important to them as the Diedne were.
Lets get to work building our structures after we parlay with him.
(apparently, I forgot to write out my footnote last time. JM suggested that the reason I joined the group was because the Elder Gild forced the issue after the attack that's just been revealed, but our RP in 5.5 never got far enough for me to mention it, so until instructed otherwise, I'm going to play it off as a surprise to Lynchessa as much to anyone else -- she knew politics had become involved, but not of the second incident)
Lynchessa, who has been trying not to flinch every time someone names the House That Is No More, spends the remainder of the trip comparing her experience in diplomacy, and specifically Faerie diplomacy, with the other magi.
Upon arriving at clearing, she takes the lead as the magi approach the Druid. She first tries to speak to him in Low German (if he does not understand, she'll switch to Latin, which he'll presumably understand).
[color=grey]"Greetings. I understand that you have introduced yourself as The Druid. I hope that in time, we might earn one another's trust enough to exchange names. For now, please call me The Mason." From someone else, this might come across as sarcastic, but Lynchessa views this as simply a sound security measure in a conversation between magic users who have little reason to trust each other.
[color=grey]"Would you walk with me as we talk? There are some details of the investigation which I need to verify before all these people get in the way." Assuming he consents, she begins measuring the circle of destruction using the stick-and-string method to determine if the fire really was a perfect circle, as they talk.
[color=grey]"I was sent here by my elders to repair the damage done by our more martial members when first they came to this forest. I am deeply disturbed to hear that others have been here since then, and that they have violated some of our most deeply held laws in the process of...whatever it was they thought to accomplish. In particular, the timing of these events is deeply troubling to me, and I would dearly appreciate any aid you can offer in my investigation.
"But let us try to accomplish things in some sensible order. My companion --" (she gestures to Hildegard) [color=grey]"tells me that you have granted a cease of hostilities while we work together to seek justice against these criminals." (she's clearly angry about this) [color=grey]"What groups or individuals do you represent in this? Are there groups or individuals whom you do not represent, with whom we may need to parlay still? Is there any more you need of us before we put down our mutual angers and regrets over that first incident, and focus on the fire?
Taken aback by the additional destruction in the clearing, Carolinus looks nervously to the edges of the forest. When the Druid appears, he smiles, thinking Perhaps we will have information and answers quickly! He whispers some quick instructions to the grogs, asking them to unpack and provide (cold) food for the covenfolk. He limps forward with Lynchessa, introducing himself to the Druid as "The Musician". He smiles grimly to himself, remembering how he was addressed at his last visit to the site.
As they walk, and Lynchessa plies the Druid with questions, Carolinus, smiling, thinks The only thing diminutive about this maga is her size! Realizing what Lynchessa is checking, Carolinus occasionally drags his staff heavily across the border between the scarred and unscarred ground as he limps beside the others, and listens carefully to the conversation.
The circle is totally round. The circle line is made of a black sticky substance and about 2 inches deep and 1 inch thick.
The Druid replies: "I am the Druid, the Eldest of a tribe of forest dwellers, who have lived in this forest since the Great War, during which the Archdruids vanished. I lead our house. We live here and await their return. We honor the seasons and the Gods of the forest that your companion Hildegard calls Fairies. They protect us and hide my tribe until we know that it is safe to live with you.
Hildegard said that the attack on us is against your customs and your laws, and that you can help us bring those to justice you did this, who destroyed our homes, killed my father, my cousins, my friends."
Lynchessa collects a sample of the tar-like substance for future study. [color=grey]"I, too, honor the seasons and the Lords of the Forest, though it sounds like our habits are more....or rather, less familiar with the preferences of any specific Lord.
"As with any group of individuals, there are some among my order who would be more...or rather, less passionate about some aspects of this crime than others. If we can arrange to interview the, uh, Gods who were attacked, then my case would be strongest. To incur the displeasure of your Gods is a more...or, let us say, an older law among my people than the assault against your family and home. Then, too, they are...or rather, more like to be well-versed in seeing the attack than perhaps your family is.
"But let us begin at the beginning, and begin with what we have at hand. What can you tell me of the attack?"
Lynchessa will interview him as best she can, though its unclear to me what skills would be needed to indicate ability with this sort of investigation.
(OOC: Given my work schedule for the next few weeks, we might consider handwaving the details of the Druid's accounting as much as we can, and have it happen in the background while others do whatever they will be doing.)
The Druid tells you that their tribe had lived in this forest since the dawn of time. Then, many years ago, the Archdruids of House Diedne had arrived and founded a covenant at this very site. The Druids had joined their settlement and house and had escaped into the woods in the Great War. The Archdruids had vanished or fled, but, according to the Druid, they are stilling watching over his tribe without revealing themselves. It was the Druids who introduced the Archdruids to their Gods.
The Druids are a group of people (he refuses to say how many) living in hiding now - allied to the Gods of the forest.
The Druid says that he will not introduce you to his Gods before you brought those that destroyed the village to justice.
Lynchessa tries to let no emotion show on her face*, as she glances at the other magi. She has never heard of this "House Diedne," but she has heard of The House That Is Not Named, and knows that this site was once a covenant aligned to The Unnamed House. It is not difficult to put the pieces together, and she feels like this conflict just got a dozen times more complex.
- Com 2 + Guile 1 (feign emotion) + die 4 = 8
(OOC: I imagined the "I've never heard the name" thing would come up during a conversation with the PCs first, but her naivete shows up nicely in this scene as well, I suppose.)
As his staff passes through the circle, Carolinus realizes he cannot break the circle, and is only making the end of his staff sticky. It must be very comforting to have both the gods and the archdruids watching over you, Carolinus smiles at the Druid. Their favor on you, and our desire to reside amicably here make it doubly important that we discover the ones who invoked this devastation.
If we are to find the truth, we must face the unpleasantness we ourselves created, he thinks to himself. And in the end, only good can come from the truth. He walks calmly on tracing the circle with the foot of his staff, while Lynchissa and the Druid continue talking.
After finishing the circle (with no words or gestures), a hazy image of the small village appears in the circle, as much as Carolinus remembers it. The image is hazy and unfinished in places, and only reflects the point of view that the magi had on their first visit. Carolinus smiles to himself, but with a hint of sadness.
Perhaps if you can describe what happened, we can determine who the enemy is? The image changes to the ruined village Carolinus and the others left months ago. Unfortunately, we brought about some of the destruction ourselves, and for that I am truly sorry.
The current devastation is far more serious, however, and suggests a planned attack. Pray, can you tell us what happened after this? Carolinus gestures to the image of the ruins, hoping the Druid can supply some details leading to the current devastation.
[size=85]ooc: casting a CrIm spell to create the (hazy) image of the town as remembers it
CrIm Level 4
R: Touch, D: Concentration, T: Circle
Base 1 +1 (Touch) +1 (Concentration) +1 (Complexity) = 4
Casting total: 12(Cr) + 7(Im) + 1(St) + ?(Aura) + 3 (die roll) = 23 + Aura, no fatigue
Carolinus will attempt to adjust the image as the Druid describes events.
When the village first appears, the Druid's face shines with hope. Then, a moment later, he realizes it is only an illusion.
"Don't mock me with visions and tricks of the light", he says, but then he understands what Carolinus intends.
He suggests several alterations ("This was more to the left" etc), and then describes what he knows of the attack. It soon becomes clear that whoever did it, was following a well-made plan.
Carolinus adjusts the illusion as the Druid describes the events. As the scene unfolds, he tries to determine what the plan was, how many people were involved, in what sequence the events took place, etc. He also looks for any evidence of casting sigils.
There were six attackers, on horseback, appearing from thin air with their setteds simultaneously. One of them cast the tar ring, and another one burned everything within. The other four riders were there to protect those. No sigils are obvious to Archimedes.
Someone knew exactly where they were going and what they were doing, Carolinus muses as the illusion fades. On the bright side, with this level of destruction, the attackers are unlikely to return. I do wonder why they came when they did. Were they awating some signal, or had they only recently discovered the location? I am also concerned that someone has an arcane connection to this location.
Carolinus smiles to himself, impressed with the circle of tar. This could be useful, he thinks. We could easily move everyone inside the circle, and use it to aid in casting spells for warmth, and illusion to hide us. He envisions a ring of trees and scrub near the circle to screen the convenant inhabitants, until some shelter might be built. A tar circle is certainly difficult to break. I wonder if this was created with Terram or Ignem spells?
Druid, he calls, How long ago was this circle created?
"The attack took place", the Druid thinks for a moment, "about three moon circles ago. Almost half a moon circle after you first...", he hesitates, tries to find an appropriate word, but then simply leaves the sentence hang in the air, unfinished.
Lynchessa tries to diplomatically turn the subject away from references to the first attack. [color=grey]"How much can you tell us about the riders or their horses?"
She presses for as much detail as possible. [color=grey]They most likely disguised themselves, but their presence on horseback is very suggestive. Either the horses are unusual, or the riders are.
At some point, she glances at Carolinus with gratitude and praise written clearly across her face. [color=grey]Circles, of course! Pater dismissed them as little more than makeshift enchantments for those without creativity. But here we see to drastically different uses for them which have little to do with making lamps.
[color=grey]This could be useful, she considers methodically. [color=grey]Even a journeyman as fresh as me could even use the circle to restore plantlife to the grounds. With a ceremonial spell at least. Maybe I should have bought those ceremonial trappings, after all.... She shakes her head free of the past and looks to the future. [color=grey]Why we could use this circle to keep our covenfolk warm through the winter while I dig out our shelters.
[color=grey]"Tell us more about the casting of the fire," she prompts, hoping to deduce the sigil.