We started this session of Druids’ Dale by finishing off things to do in Spring. Whilst everyone else had been raiding down into Hexam, Pisciculus and Sid went to visit the nearby village of Dunoon where the young lad Doogle had suffered a curse by some local fey which had caused him to age drastically.
Euan had managed to lay a blessing on him to stop his aging (so he was now ageless), but the other effect of his curse was that he was blind, deaf and dumb.
Writing up journals for Ars Magica is tricky since I’m not certain from whose point of view to write it. With multiple characters available, this can change during a session. I also like to add player commentary as well. For now, I’m going to try specifying who the author is and more clearly differentiate player and character commentary. I may modify the style over the next few sessions to see what works best.
Pisciculus ex Criamon
Myself and Sid headed to Dunoon to query Doogle. He was still being looked after by his mother, and they were being helped by the other villagers.
The mother was happy for us to try and help him again, so I sent a thought directly into his head to see what he could remember. The mind that I contacted though seemed to be barely there. The answers that came seemed like they came from a long distance away, as if his mind was drifting away.
I asked him about what he had seen at the hill, but his memories were fragmentary. He remembered torches and a campfire, singing and dancing. There were bodies chained to the stones, and he seemed to remember that one of them was him.
All he remembered after that was running and tumbling down the hill to escape.
A number of us had been wanting to explore the caverns beneath the covenant for a while, and now was a good opportunity to do so. We were one player down for the evening, but a group of three shouldn’t of been a problem. As it turned out, the whole excursion was a lot deadlier than we imagined, and at various points I was thinking that it might turn into a TPK.
Pisciculus ex Criamon
Maedbh ex Merinita had been wanting to explore the caverns beneath the covenant since we’d arrived, and to be honest they piqued my interest as well. The “Path of Eternity” is carved above the entrance to the caverns, which for a Criamon such as myself only adds to the temptation.
It has been two years since we arrived here, so it was well past time to explore. Euan ex Miscellanea came with us, lending his special Gruagach talents to the team. We decided not to take any of our grogs, since if the tunnels were as magical as had been described, it would probably not be a safe place for them.
Euan decided to bring some aromatic herbs with him, in order to lay down a scent trail which he would be able to follow back. This was not the last clever idea he was to have. Though I decided to take a lantern, I did allow Maedbh to cast Eyes of the Cat upon me. As she finished the spell, she suddenly seemed to stare out to infinity – a sight I have seen before on magi lost in Twilight. She recovered quickly, but had temporarily lost control of the magic. My eyes seemed better accustomed to the dark, so the spell had worked. Or so it seemed for now.
I still took the lantern though. And some meat and cheese layered between a couple of slices of bread in case we get hungry. Maedbh decided to being along some gifts in case we were to come across fey.
Heading into the tunnels they soon branched into three, so we headed left and followed things to a dead end. Using the age old trick of following the left wall, we head deeper into the caverns, following various twists and turns. Eventually the walls start to exhibit glowing crystal growths, and impressive formations of stalactites. The aura here was still level three, and of a pure Magical nature. Nothing seemed enchanted about the crystals though. It seemed to take Euan and Maedbh a long time to work this out, though it seemed natural to my eyes.
After an unknown amount of time we started to get hungry and sat down to eat the meat and bread. I was especially hungry, though I wasn’t sure why at the time.
Eventually the walls of the tunnels became slick with moisture, and a cool breeze wafted up the tunnel. It opened out into a large natural stone cavern filled with a soft golden light which came from a large tree in the middle. It grow upon a pile of rubble and earth, and apart from some small amount of grass it was the only thing growing here.
What it was we weren’t certain – at first it was an Elder tree. Then it seemed to be an Apple Tree, or a Hazal. Maedbh insisted it was mostly an Arbutus, but Euan disagreed and said it was an Apple Tree. To my eyes, it was mostly an Elder.
Whilst admiring it from afar, I noticed that Maedbh had wandered up to it and seemed to be standing in a half daze beneath its limbs. Something stirred up in the branches, and I was filled with a strong feeling of paranoia. As well as hunger again. I called out to Maedbh to be careful, but then the feeling was gone.
She made for herself a small wreath of twigs and leaves, and Euan collected some nuts and apples from beneath it. Myself, I left it alone and we headed around it and out a passage on the other side.
We weren’t sure how long we’d been down here by the time we reached a cold flowing stream. Maedbh drinks from it, but I try to resist. Having lost sense of time, and unsure of direction, we decide to head back. There is no tree this time, but instead the tunnel opens out into a forest clearing. Behind us, the tunnel leads back into a tall hill, though a solid wooden door blocks the way. It is locked and won’t open, and we’re pretty certain we didn’t come through it.
I get the urge to capture a squirrel I see, and before I know it I have it in my hands and I am about to eat it. I managed to stop myself and threw it aside, though I was getting very hungry. I had a feeling that there were things lurking in the trees.
Maedbh is sure that we were now in a strong Faerie aura, and Euan said that he could hear music coming from down a path. With few other choices, we headed towards the music.
There was a large clearing in which was set a pavilion, and a dozen or so men were dancing and singing. There were tables covered with food, and in the middle of the clearing sat a woman. She was old. She was young. She was a mother.
The men seemed to be warriors. Dressed in heavy mail, leathers or just painted tattoos. They carried blades of many types, and seemed to be of various cultures. They danced and sang in front of the woman as it to try to impress her, but all seemed to ignore us. From the looks of it, there was a predatory competition going on. Their skills were high, but they all seemed to lack creativity in what they did.
With few other choices, Maedbh stepped in, forcing her way past the warriors who tried to stop her to present a gift of salt, bread and meade to the maiden/mother/crone. For a moment it looked like a fight was about to break out, but then the woman noticed Maedbh and the aggression of her suitors faded.
Know you that you have come unprepared and unbidden. No contract protects thee. It is only our pleasure at the re-awakening that we may extend our protection against your folly. Now what it is you seek, and what gifts do you bring?— Maiden / Mother / Crone
Maedbh very eloquently presented a three fold gift of salt, bread and meade, though I misremember her exact words and could not do them proper justice her so I won’t try to repeat them.
The woman told us that the gifts were acceptable, but to get what we wanted we would need to challenge her to a competition. There were three of her, and three of us, so three competitions.
I went first, challenging the maiden to a game of riddles. Riddles are the life of a Criamon, and we are taught them from an early age, so I conjured up one of the cycle of rebirth that the world goes through every time history is repeated. Her answer was good – probably good enough for most people, but there was a flaw in her answer which I was able to prove by drawing on my memory of the writings of the old philosophers. The young woman was delighted that she had been beaten.
Maedbh told a story to the mother, one of the loss and finding of a child. I feel that the story may have been a personal one to her, so again I will not repeat what may not be mine to recount. The story though tugged at the heart strings of the mother, and she was suitably impressed.
Finally Euan challenged the old crone to a fight of forms. She went first, changing herself into a huge mother bear, that towered over all of us. We were not sure what Euan would do to counter such a powerful creature, but he took the form of a bear cub. The old bear went to swipe at the cub, but found herself cradling it instead.
She called out Euan for using such a dirty trick. But it was one that she approved of, so she conceded defeat.
All these things happened simultaneously and also not so. It’s difficult to say with clarity exactly what happened, but all three of us has defeated her. She presented us with a key, and also a warning.
Do not intrude into the tunnels again until we are appropriately prepared for this journey. This is the least of the issues that we might find ourselves in.— The three fold woman’s warning
They key got us back through the door, and eventually we made our way back to the covenant following the scent of the herbs. I was famished by the time I returned, and headed straight for the kitchen, only later finding out that we’d been gone for three weeks.
My eyes eventually returned to normal, but I think that something in the magic that Maedbh had used had summoned something feline that took an interest in me. Trusting Maedbh again to aid me with magic is something I’m going to only do in the most dire of circumstances in the future.
Afterwards we discussed what we had found. Possibly the people we saw were faeries, but they may not have been. The place had a faerie aura, but it was not faerie land. Whatever it was, it didn’t fit what we knew of such places.