Winter brings the first year of our Ars Magica campaign to a close. One of the things I like about Ars Magica is that real amounts of time actually pass during the game. Games like D&D feel like you begin at 1st level at age 16, then you reach 20th level before your 17th birthday. In games like Ars Magica, Pendragon and even Traveller, time passes.
Winter was actually a simple season. Apart from a few trips out to visit the nearby town of Dumbarton by Jack and Allistor, most people, especially the magi, stayed in. Pisciculus read the spell Posing the Silent Question, which should make some of our data gathering easier.
At the end of the year, the Redcaps delivered the latest news from the region, which included the following rumours and news:
- An unnaturally large Wildcat has been spotted roaming in the area to the north of the Covenant, and two farmsteads have been found with no trace of their occupiers or Livestock. Some say that the no-doubt magical Wildcat is responsible whilst others believe that banditry is more likely. Others believe that the mysterious ‘scholars’ who recently arrived may be responsible. There are general rumblings about the lack of order in the area and that “something must be done”.
- A tremendous storm battered the Western coast of Scotland for a day and a night. Witnesses say that lightning split the skies and played among the clouds, creating images that appeared to be almost akin to a mighty armoured figure. A number of docks in South-Western Scotland were damaged by monstrous gusts of wind, swamped by stormy seas or set afire by strikes of lightning rendering sea-faring difficult at this time.
- The unfortunate youth afflicted by last year’s Faerie dance of Dunoon now has the body of a 50 year-old man. Rumour has it that he was ageing at an unheard of pace until a wild hermit forbade him to age further. Seekers of immortality have started to badger the youth’s mother in order to locate the hermit.
- King Alexander II is moving soldiers to support Duncan, son of Dougall in his claim to Kintyre against Ruaidhrí mac Raghnaill, puppet of Ragnall Mac Gofraid, the King of Mann. The King has let it be known that any who impede the progress of his men or their supplies will be considered enemies of the Crown.
- The village of Coylet has been visited by the King’s men looking to ensure that the local roads are in good order. The villagers have been made aware that they must do their utmost to ensure that the depredations of the Wurm of Loch Eck that have in the past so affected tax revenue, do not effect the supplies to the King’s forces that will soon be moving through the area. In unrelated news, the local tax collector has been hung for peculation and a replacement appointed.
- A wandering Friar has passed through the area. He visited many of the local villages and offered blessings to all who had lost a parent in their youth, but would not involve himself in any other religious activities.
In the new year, we performed the Aegis of the Hearth, that put up a magical shield around the covenant and bound the magi into it so that we could pass through it unhindered. Alexandra also created thirteen tiny tokens and told us not to ask what they were for. Pisciculus guess is that they are for brownies or similar fey. They are known to do useful work around a place, but if anyone talks about it, or tries to offer them more payment then they have a habit of leaving.
The magi decided which books they would be studying, and Aodhan decides to start writing scholarly texts for others to read.
As the snows cleared, we decided that we should probably look into the problem with the wildcat, since it was potentially reflecting badly on us – even though we had nothing to do with that. Jack and Hamish went out, along with Euan, Allistor and Maedbh.
The village from where the stories had come were not too far away, so one day we headed out. We relied on Maedbh to do the talking with the villagers, who were reasonably happy to talk to us. Or at least to her. Two families who had recently arrived in the area and set up in cottages out in the middle of nowhere, had vanished over winter. The villagers think that they may had done something to upset the fey, or possibly it was just bandits.
Some of us had a night of chatting and drinking with them, then we set out in the morning. The first cottage was deserted. Apart from the front door having been broken down, it wasn’t in too bad condition. The roof could do with some repair after winter, and the garden could do with some care, but it was otherwise unharmed.
Euan changed himself into a bloodhound and had a sniff around, but there wasn’t too much signs of anything. Jack took a look inside the cottage, and there was some signs of a disturbance. Going by the state of the bed, they had probably been attacked at night, by something large that had broken down the door.
The barn was empty – it looked like the animals had escaped some time ago. Allistor checked the status of the fire, and determined that it had been last used back in November. So they’d been gone for at least a couple of months. The stores they had left showed that they’d had a really good harvest last year. There was a horseshoe hanging over the door, and a small silver crucifix buried under the door frame. Beyond that, there was nothing unusual.
Jack had a look around outside to see if there were any signs of recent burials, but found nothing.
We headed over to the second cottage to find much the same. Something large had smashed through the door again, and there were good stores here, but no signs of animals.
Eventually, we found a small leather bag that had been weighted down in the nearby stream. It contained the burned bones of four cats. This seemed to really upset Euan, and he went into the cottage alone to try and get some visions of what happened. A large cat had come in and dragged them off. But why?
Maedbh had the answer – there were old tales of people roasting cats to death in order to make a bargain with powers for good fortune. However, such requests always turned out badly in the end. This would explain their good harvests, and violent ends. If these things always end badly, why do people do such things?
Heading back to the first cottage, we found a similar bag there, so we’re convinced that both families did the same thing, and were punished for it.
Heading back to the village we went to explain what had happened – leaving out the details so that nobody would be stupid enough to try it themselves. However, an argument ensued, mostly between Euan and Maedbh. Hamish also sided with Maedbh, but being lower down the pecking order tried mostly to keep out of it.
Euan wanted to tell a story of dark rituals that involved animal cruelty, for which they were punished. He wanted to warn them off from being cruel to animals, which nobody object to. However, putting around the story that people had been doing dark rituals seemed to be a really bad idea, especially since they’d already been predisposed to blaming us for the vanishings. Encouraging stories like that seemed like the opposite of what we wanted to do.
Euan went ahead and told the villagers about dark rituals anyway.
Eventually, we all got back to the covenant and the rest of the season passed without incident.