The horizon is telling me that I am near That my journey is soon to end and my life is soon to begin I am waiting for the night to come When the lost world will resurface When the dawn light the sparks in the sky
Your group surrounds the new arrival. The man who is the Red Man, yet... Isn't.
The night reveals a young face, half still beneath the red hood. A face under blond hair, with friendly, if not particularly handsome features. Grey eyes, and a young man's stubble. This young man, he reminds you of... Yourselves. Of Wenchell, the wanna-be hero. Of Sveinki and James, that first time they went to war. All the gear he wears, below the red cloak, it doesn't fit together.
Hauberk and sword belong, without a doubt, to Thomas, Glordir's father. But the man doesn't appear to be a warrior, himself: He wears no boots, but a peasant's raw-cut shoes. His surcoat under Thomas' hauberk, is simple, as well, but not have been cheap: There is a symbol stitched onto it that you all might have seen before.
The newcomer seems overwhelmed, even intimidated by your words, and the way everyone is turning on him. He takes a step back - but it's not a step towards a defensive fight stance. It's the stumbling back of a blushing boy. It's the motion of a man that is not used to fight. As he answers, his voice - or rather, his language - seems to clear. As if you were getting closer, on a level that you cannot understand. As all of you gradually begin to understand his words, you realize that this young man, too, might be part of the magic that surrounds you.
"W-where? - I'm not a thief, Sir! Why-?"
The young man's demeanor suddenly changes. Then, a second later, his sword is out. Thomas' sword, without a doubt. All descendants of the Band of Agnarr will recognize it. The young man has moved with more than superhuman speed. To Cailín, he will glow from magic. Yet, the young man doesn't seem himself to be aware of it.
He holds Thomas' slender sword, with his arm extended, bringing a wider distance between himself and Glordir, to whose throat the tip of the blade is pointing now.
His gaze hardens. Suddenly, there is a resemblance there. One that you cannot quite define. The young man seems to have aged, and considerably. Five years, maybe. You can see the Red Man in him, now.
"Prince Lark himself gave this sword to me, after we had fought at the Woodpecker's Pool. He took it from a fallen warrior. Never before had a man of these lands h been granted such an honor. You should know, because all the White Knights were there. But you don't know, because you are no White Knights, and that sorry little scout of yours is not a halfing, but a forest dweller. - Or are you? Do you pretend you are a Whiteguard, Elven scum?!""
"By the Shadow, and the Doors of Night..." - Wenchell's voice seems to fade as he speaks - or rather, it is substituted by the cold sting in your hearts that is the voice of the 'Elephant Man':
"In the Forest of No Return, time is a flat circle."
Glordir looks at the Red Man with hesitancy. It seems that he is not quite right, his mind seems scrambled between two times and two experiences.
"Where was this fallen warrior? Prince Lark surely honored you with such a gift." Glordir tries to diffuse the situation, buying time for the right moment to disarm the Red Man. It will be difficult with the inhuman speed he possesses.
Sveinki makes sure that he puts Enver’s journal in his belt pouch before doing anything else.
With Glordir’s words, he will lower his sword. In a soothing tone he answers:
“Your hauberk and sword bear a striking resemblance to those that belong to my friend’s father.” Pointing to Glordir. “We thought you had stolen them or worse yet, that you killed his father and took his equipment. That was what caused our reaction.”
“You are right, we are not White Knights. In fact, we found this equipment in a pit, here in the forest, just a few days ago.”
Greg Svenson, aka "The Great Svenny" Original Blackmoor Participant
"The sword." James speaks carefully, as one would to a person with a mercurial temper, "The sword is ... known to us. Our ancestors quested with its owner, Glordir's father. The fact that he has truly fallen is ... most upsetting."
He shakes himself a little, caught in old memories not his own. "He was a courageous and honourable warrior. We would ask that you do his memory honour as you wield his sword. Seek out injustice, help the weak, bring hope to those who have none. That is what we hope to achieve also."
The Red Man - or, rather, in this instance, the man in red, because you still have difficulty asociating this bold young warrior with the demon from your nightmares - this red man, he pushes his blade forward, just a bit, to touch Glordir's skin.
"Liars! Elven scum! - And I wish it was me who killed your friend's father, then, with all the other Elf-Friends at Woodpecker's Pool! Betrayers of the human race!"
Behind you, and somewhat unnervedly, "The Elephant Man" takes off his wooden mask.
"We are in the Land of the Children now, in the Old Land. Time is a flat circle, here. Don't you manlings know anything?"
As his voice echoes through your minds - again, meaning that all of you can hear it, wherever you are - those of you who get the chance to turn their heads can see that the fey's scars seem to have largely... Disappeared. He looks younger now, and much stronger.
"May the Powerless Gods d**n you, traitorous scum! You travel with a Child-Eater!"
Disarming the red warrior would be a difficult task, because the tip of his blade is already touching Glordir's throat. But disarming him might also be necessary, because he's literally trembling with rage, and might do something foolish, any second, now. But he's quick. Very quick. At least the magic of the forest seems to make him so.
The moonless skies above still dance, and their stars change with every turn they take.
"Yes, yes, let he who wears the armor taken from a fallen foe go about casting aspersions. This armor we wear -- ill fitting and hot and uncomfortable as it is --" Here, Cailín shrugs her chain shirt into a slightly more comfortable position -- "was won by right of trial by combat. A combat won with no small use of magics, which was again used here." She inclines her head towards the still-smoking ruin of the mill.
"By all means, continue with your ravings. That," she again indicates the pile of charred stone and rubble, "is the result of my spilling a few drops of my own blood. Shed a drop of his, and I will do the same with my own. Do you think you will fare any better than the old mill?"
Your words seem to, finally, come through to the man in red.
He still keeps his sword-arm and blade extended, but he takes a step back, away from Glordir, and points Thomas' sword towards Cailín.
You can see that the man in red is more than a little confused. Afraid, and alarmed, yes, but mostly confused.
The blade points towards Cailín, but his eyes go to Sveinki, and to James.
"B-but... The war is over... We freed all..."
His voice seems to trail away. You think you the shadows dance around him. His age seems to change, subtly. Before, you could tell that he was young, very young. Younger than Serafín, even. But now that, most bewilderingly, doesn't seem to be a given, any more. A younger man, almost a lad, yes. But his youthful glow is dimmed by the shadow of an older person that, strangely, is also him.
- Wenchell has apparently decided that he has seen about enough. He makes a big, daring step towards the younger swordsman; yet, he doesn't rise his own weapons, two Moongold swords. You doubt that he could fight with two blades, given how much difficulty he even had with a warhammer. But then, it surely looks imposing.
With relative calm, Wenchell asks:
"So, is he... Out of his own time? Or, are we?! - My family..."
Then, his gaze goes towards the scorching ruins of the mill, and towards the healing "Elephant Man".
"If this really is the past, what is supposed to have happened when he came this way...?"
The situation deteriorates into a silent stalemate, as the not-quite-red-man somewhat helplessly points his blade towards Glordir, and then back to Cailín.
This would maybe have gone on for quite a while longer, if not for the "Elephant Man". The little feyling, almost like a sleepwalker, walks around the standing humans, until he finds a place that gives him the space necessary to aim. The feyling's black eyes go from you to the newcomer, and back. Then, without much further ceremony, he thunders the wooden elephant mask - his helmet - against the red man's head. And, consequently, the man in red goes down face-first, like a sacrificial ox. - For who needs diplomacy when you have a trump card up your sleeve?
The warrior from another time is not dead, though, that you can see at first glance, just very badly knocked out.
You can hear him grunting, the way an unconscious man hyperventilates, as his face lies buried in the untrimmed grass.
His sword - Thomas' sword - has fallen several feet away from him.
"If time is a flat circle here, are you saying we could meet our own ancestors?" James is totally confused, but some things seem clear.
James' question might likely have been directed at the "Elephant Man", but it's Wenchell who decides it's a good idea to give his own interpretation of the recent events - and, somewhat surprisingly, it sounds like he might not be completely off with his idea:
"So, the Red Man and the feyling are aging backwards...? If we aren't - because I really feel as strong as ever - maybe then we could indeed travel further into the past. ...And what about the future?"
"This one doesn't have any love for elvenkind, does he? And what did he mean when he said we travel with a child eater?"
The evil spirit that guides you through this story imagines that this wouldn't be much of a question, given what you yourselves had witnessed in the village of the Two-Moon Fey. Consequently, he imagines that your heads, one by one, might slowly turn towards your alien, yet extremely useful companion, who had busied himself to pick up his wooden mask, and perhaps, for reasons of combative reassurance, already extended his leg to kick the fallen warrior in his head.
Noticing how all present attention begins to focus solely on him, the feyling stops mid-move, and returns your suspicion with the most innocent of broad smiles, showing you all of his long, sharp teeth.
Glordir quickly grabs Thomas' sword and then focuses on tying up the red man. Making sure that his bindings are very secure. After it is clear he is secure, he will remove Thomas' armor and check any other gear he wears.
"Perhaps the man in red were not always evil. My father told me the story of a woman companion who willingly went with the red man to be a bride to the master of the forest. Perhaps the man in red made some sort of similar deal to protect someone he loved or his village."
With the Red Man collapsing like the proverbial pole-axed ox, a small measure of warmth creeps back into the Staff of Ravens. Cailín does not let her guard down, though, and asks of nobody in particular "What is this 'Woodpecker's Pool' he made mention of?"
The night above you passes, and the dancing skies turn from night to day within a matter of minutes. You didn't see many stars there, and no moon, even though the silver light of it was what helped you see, here in the forest. Yet, the few stars you saw seemed... Somehow wrong. Out of place, and maybe even alien. A man with skills like James would easily be able to tell that this was not the sky over Asterion. This was, or, is, someplace... Else.
Meanwhile, Wenchell, again, proves his certain, if limited, usefulness, as he promptly answers the question Cailín had said to the open:
"Woodpecker's Pool, that's a lake, actually, a bit South of Casterbridge. I know that it must be a very old place: When we were little, we always wanted to go there because we would find old pieces of metal, and even old coins be the shore of the lake. Around it, it's moundland, you know? If you dare to dig deep enough, you'll find things... And some dangers."
Casterbridge is the capital of Foloi, "The Fool's Bank", and itself located South of Larkhill.
Uncharacteristically enough, the "Elephant Man" responds as well, in a rather unusual fit of talkativeness:
"An important battle was fought there. I fought in that battle. I was not at this mill, back then."
You might all begin to wonder whether the burnings that the "Elephant Man" had sustained might also have limited his way to communicate with you.
Once the man in red is aptly tied up, you use the calm moment to take care of a few things that might be of less immediate importance, but still need to be done.
Serafin, again, searches Enver's body, and indeed finds a wooden stylus in Enver's inside jacket pocket, but the ink upon the tip is - of course - dry. The bounty hunter didn't carry all too much with him, which, again, suggests that he might have either lost all his gear, or might have had a campsite nearby. Last time you met him, he was traveling on horseback, after all. ...But given the nature of the enchanted forest around you, looking for that campsite might perhaps be rather dangerous.
Sveinki, in the meantime, has skimmed through Enver's journal, as good as the situation allows. It seems the bounty hunter was a meticulous keeper of notes, and it will take some time to get through all of this: There are notes on Tizona, and some on Asterion, on what might be earlier targets of Enver, and notes that seem to consist of rather generic depictions of everyday observations.
The last page within the notebook features a complex drawing though, similar to the circular lines that would compose the sketch of an astrolabe. - Similar, but not the same. Sveinki has the disquieting feeling that this is not a map to the stars, but something else.
A bit apart from the others, Glordir has picked up the sword of the red man. - Or rather, the sword of Thomas. For this is his father's sword, beyond any doubt. Glordir himself has wielded it, in play, or in training, many times before. This is the sword that his father has used since Glordir can remember. Any thoughts of a possible confusion or mistake can be discarded.
Sveinki will show everyone the drawing in Enver's journal.
"Enver sure didn't have much of the gear he had last time we saw him. And his horse, where did he leave that. Someone might want to look around to see if Enver had a camp nearby. I want to check out what is left of the mill..."
He will then look around the ruins to see if there is anything there that wasn't destroyed in the destruction of the mill.
Last Edit: Jan 19, 2017 15:24:23 GMT -6 by gsvenson
Greg Svenson, aka "The Great Svenny" Original Blackmoor Participant
Cailín scratches at the dirt around the campfire with a charred bit of wood from the rubble, copying the strange symbol Sveinki showed them, and then tracing runes around the edge of it, singing their names softly as she does. As each is named, its impression in the dirt fills with what looks to be... molten light, each a different color.
She stops, blinking as if from a daze, the last rune's name half-sung, biting down on it and dragging her boot through her work, the weyr-light dancing away like so many sparks and cinders from the campfire.
She does not fail to notice the subtle change in the still-scarred face of their feyling guide. Disappointment? Relief?
"That symbol on his garments - he's some sort of knight, isn't he?" James is carefully looking around, knowing that trouble is always waiting for them to lower their guard. "This Prince Lark, does anyone remember anything about him?"
When the night sky comes out, he gets a little dizzy quickly turning round to look at the stars. "This is so, so wrong. I hate not being able to trust the sky. If time is all messed up here, who knows how long we've already spent here. We have to finish this and get back to the real world as soon as possible."
Above you, the skies dance again, in concentric circles - as if, beyond the horizons, there was a a cyclone that pulled in the essence of day and night, and ever on.
Like Sveinki suggested, Enver pretty obviously wouldn't have left his other belongings behind out of his own volition. Now, the deciding question in this regard would be: Are the woods around you safe? You seem to be traveling through the dimensions, after all. What if one of you entered the forest... But then vanished?!
The air around him seems to flicker as Navarre makes a sign of protection.
When Sveinki holds up Enver's journal, all of the party see it. Serafin, Glordir, and Cailín will all immediately feel like the sketch reminds them of the circles on an astrolabe, but... Something seems off about it. You'd have to examine the sketch from closer nearby.
Meanwhile, Sveinki's and Serafin's examination of the mill's ruins doesn't really bring forth any items of interest: The colors of the ashes below the scorched stones and remnants of the wooden planks are darker than they should be: Maybe this is where the demon children turned to dust. But neither on the bridge, where Serafin is, or over the ruined house, where Sveinki stands, can you discern any fundamental changes to the building.
Serafin's and Sveinki's attention to their surroundings makes them realize something else, though: It seems that, in junction with the changing skies, your environment is changing - to autumn. Serafin might know, from stories his father told him, that similar magic is used in other parts of the world - namely, in Norran, from where his ancestry came. But, if this strange land is really somehow... Bewitched... Then this is a stronger time-changing spell than anything he has ever heard about.
Sveinki and James will not remember to have heard any such story by their ancestry, from Barr. Then, again, the Varra family hails, as they might well know, from the kingdom of Duneyrr.
But any attempt at such an examination is interrupted by... Whatever will happen to Glordir, really. His spell, not unlike Cailín's spell before, is somehow rebuked, by forces unseen. To the others, it just seems like Glordir's eyes and hands suddenly begin to glow, from the same flash of fire that comes from burning dry hay - for the half-elf, though, the experience is way less pleasant: For a few seconds, he loses his eyesight, and, afterwards, there's a certain numbness in his limbs.
This place itself, the Erlenwood is magical place. Glordir is not powerful enough yet to be able to find his ways through this ocean of magical energies. But he has the feeling that a more powerful spellcaster maybe would.
Glordir's broken spell disrupts Cailín's drawing, but not without provoking a very, very short reaction, almost o quick for a normal onlooker's gaze.
Once Glordir has his eyesight back, James gets a chance to ask the others about King Lark.
[Only a perfect INT check - rolling a 1 - will reveal more than what you already know, or what the non-player characters might tell you.]
Wenchell is again, quick with the answer.
"Larkhill, LARK-HILL, you know, is also a very old place. From before the foundation of the Old Kingdom, even..."
With "The Old Kingdom", Wenchell likely refers to Asterion, the precursor to Marriott.
"The Elephant Man" answers, too, but slower.
"Lark was a mighty warrior."
He will approach James, and, somewhat brusquely, show yet another scar below his small tunic, right over his belly. It looks like a very old cut - but a clean one.
"He was a mighty warrior, but I managed to kill him."
It's dawning on the group that you will have to find out how time works, in this strange place, or be lost in it. How can the little feyling even have scars, if the fight happened centuries, even millenia ago?!
But all your quieter thoughts are interrupted:
From the wavering darkness that is the path back to the village of the Two-Moon Fey, a creature emerges - all of a sudden, without warning, without any prior sign, or sound, or changing of atmoshphere. It is just there, all of a sudden, as if had always been there, like a part of the landscape that you had failed to notice.
It is a giant boar, twice as big as a horse. An orc-boar from Norran, it might echo in your heads. James and Sveinki have fought similar creatures. On the Raven's Road.
But it doesn't come accompanied by the swine-people that the Orcs of Asterion are: Two human soldiers walk with it, one holding the reins of the giant animal. Two human soldiers with the same white armor that you are wearing. As they see you, they stop, obviously assessing the situation.
And as they see the "Red Man" lying facedown in the grass, and the "Elephant Man" next to it, they seem to think the wrong thoughts, and really, really quickly.
Yelling and shouting, one of them tries to mount the giant boar, and the other one goes on one knee, firing an arrow from his bow as he gets down:
The arrow misses Cailín, but only by a few inches, and lands in the remains of the wall of the burned-down millhouse. Which he traverses.