We had spent spring exploring the caves beneath the covenant of Druids’ Dale, so now it was time to make a quick excursion outside to investigate the unnatural cats which had been causing trouble for some of the villages. We had dealt with them once before – some villagers had been sacrificing cats in a somewhat horrific way in order to gain a bountiful harvest. The subsequent cost though had been fatal.
Obviously someone else had passed on the details of the ritual, so we needed to find out what was going on.
One problem we ran into with the rules during this session was that I got to use Probe the Silent Question, which has in its description mention of magic resistance rolls. There is no such thing as a magic resistance roll in 5th Edition Ars Magica. We assumed that it was something that had been copy and pasted from an earlier edition, and what we found on the internet seemed to back this up.
Pisciculus ex Criamon
Maedbh, Allistor and Euan were wanting to spend some time in study this season, so it was left to myself to lead a small group up to the village of Inveraray. When I say small group, it was just Sid, the Irish priest Aodhan and the ungifted redcap Greysen ex Mercere. Which left me as the only gifted magus.
The weather was good, but the roads were quite busy with a lot of traffic taking supplies to the King’s military encampment to the west. We had to head northeast around the shores of Loch Fyne before heading back south west towards our destination. We camped down on the first night with a group of other travellers, but managed to keep to ourselves and nobody bothered us. Which was good, because I have learned that the people here seem to take exception to my facial tattoos, as well as feeling uneasy around the Gift.
We arrived at Inveraray the next day. It was a small village where the fields seemed to have been very fruitful. Considerably more so than some of the villages around. This was not a good sign. Another disconcerting sign was the sight of two cottages on the northern edge of the village which had burned down and been abandoned.
Greysen spoke to one of the farmhands who pointed us towards the village inn if we wanted information. When cats were mentioned he seemed to get all shifty and denied all knowledge.
At the inn, Greysen bought a round of beers and was his usual friendly and sociable self, quickly winning over the few people who were here. I sat at a table back from the bar, and apart from a few nervous looks in my direction was mostly ignored. Since Greysen managed to get information out of people without too much difficulty, I didn’t feel a need to try my magic.
Apparently a really good singer had come around here about a year ago, but the locals were really happy to have Greysen offer to do some singing. Mention of cats brought the mood down a bit, but a soldier who was passing through mentioned that he had heard stories. He claimed to have seen a pair of eyes starting at him out of the woods, not far from the burned cottages.
About a year ago the families of those cottages had gone missing after a night of violence and screaming. By morning, when people finally got the courage to take a look, the doors had been smashed down and the families were gone. The attacks had been separate – with a couple of weeks between the two cottages. Afterwards, the villagers had burned the cottages down in order to try and erase the horror of what had happened.
It was suggested that maybe we could talk to one of the families that lived closed – a woman named Meg was recommended.
After Greysen did some more singing, and bought some more beers, we decided to head out. Aodhan headed up to the church, and the rest of us went up to the woods. Sid was looking for tracks, and I tried looking for any signs of bags of bones in the stream, though came closer to falling in that finding anything. Fortunately Greysen found what I was looking for – a leather bag full of burned feline bones.
Sid found some signs of a boar sized animal having been moving around in the foliage at the edge of the woods. Next up, we needed to find Meg.
Asking around in the fields, Greysen seemed to make some friends with the young women, but eventually we located Meg. This time I came up with him, keeping my hood back so that I would be able to make eye contact with her. As Greysen spoke to her, she was giving me nervous glances so it wasn’t too hard to catch her eye and reach into her mind. It was tricky doing so without making outward signs of my spell casting, but there was also something else blocking me. I pushed through though, and managed to gain what I sought. Thought it left me fatigued afterwards.
Silently asking her who had been making sacrifices in the village, her unbidden answer was that it was probably the families of the two burned cottages, plus maybe someone else, though she didn’t know who.
Meanwhile Greysen worked his usual charms and got us invited in to her cottage for tea. Well, got himself invited in, and in my somewhat broken Gaelic I invited myself along as well. She didn’t seem happy, but she was to polite too refuse.
From the look of her cottage she seemed to be a family woman. If she had supernatural abilities to block my magic I had been expecting a spinster or widow. The herbs around the place looked pretty normal – no signs of her being a wise woman or herbalist.
She was happy to talk about things with Greysen, mentioning that the crops have been excellent for the last couple of years. A couple of other villages have also had good harvests, well above the normal for the region. Prior to the attacks on the cottages, there had been some nights where there had been some awful noises from cats – shrieking and a smell of burned flesh. When asked, she realised that there hadn’t been many cats around the village for a while.
The two families weren’t new – they’d been here for generations. The only newcomer was her cousin, Megan, who was staying with her. She had some odd habits apparently, such as insisting on burying something under the door.
When we all met up back at the inn, we compared notes. Sid had found cat tracks around the outside of the village, but nothing coming in. As if there was a barrier of some kind – the two burned cottages were right on the edge of it.
Aodhan had found the church to be dirty and unused, so had spent time cleaning it. There was no priest here, so he had taken confessions from some of the villagers who had turned up to help him. From the confessions, it seems there was a general level of pettiness amongst the villagers.
That night, Greysen entertained the whole village with his music, whilst myself and Sid slipped out to investigate. Digging up Meg’s door, we find a silver cross buried under it, just as we had at the previous village. Sid put it back. Myself, I tried to sense any magic on the door or the cross, and failed to find any. Something was blocking me.
So I tried to determine what type of aura was here – first seeking signs of the Divine. Except my spell failed, and I almost went into Twilight. Keeping control of things, there was a sudden feeling of being watched. Turning, I saw a large black house cat with glowing red eyes and a white patch under its belly. It purred at me, and suggested that maybe I just ask it if I have any questions rather than trying to use magic.
Fortunately Sid could see the cat as well. It rubbed itself up against my legs, so I scratched it behind the neck. I said that I wanted to put a stop to the pain being done, to end the cycle of revenge. I asked it whether there were those here who caused its kind pain. It replied “one in particular”, and said that they could be found at the church.
So Sid and myself headed to the church, where there was only Aodhan. Either someone else was here, or the cat, which had now vanished, was directing us at Aodhan. I didn’t believe that Aodhan was the cause of the pain, though Sid seemed suspicious.
We described what had happened to Aodhan, who said it might be a Cáit Sidhe, a type of evil fae, though I wasn’t sure fae had any concept of evil (or good). They simply are. But this was the sort of thing I’d come all the way north to try and find out. Are the fae here the same as the fae in the Mediterranean?
We were interrupted by the sound of fighting cats outside. We rushed back outside, to see the black cat had returned, and it was facing a large golden cat the size of a horse. Aodhan had brought religious paraphernalia out with him, and was shouting Latin, quoting from the bible.
Fortunately, Greysen, who was still entertaining at the inn, had heard the commotion outside and raised the sound of his singing, getting the villagers to join in to drown out the noise that we were making. We wouldn’t have his help, but more importantly wouldn’t upset the villagers with whatever we did.
Eventually he stopped long enough to tell us that the black cat was the evil one, so I tried a spell against – Winter’s Icy Touch. I didn’t want to hurt it, but to tire it out to stop it fighting. Aodhan threw some blessed water at it, burning it, and Sid tried to shoot it, but missed. As I tried to tire it again, the cat is raked by its larger opponent, seems to give me a final withering look, and vanishes.
Which left us with just the golden cat, which was now sitting in the graveyard and licking its paws.
“What was the other thing?” I asked it. It didn’t speak, but seemed to let us know the answer by the way it shifted its body and looked at us. Not sure, something southern.
It wouldn’t say why it was here, or who it was, but complained that You have the stench of the fey about you.
It seemed to know more than what it was saying. When asked who had been spreading knowledge of these rituals, it replied. One who has the scent of the southern thing about it. Who has been travelling these hills for the last few years.
With that, the large cat turned and headed off, giving one final message. I am going to have my dale back at some point.