1223, Autumn – Cave of Illumination

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It is Autumn 1223, and after leaving Crun Clach in our Ars Magica saga, and we had arrived at a small village which seems to have been the feeding ground for a large number of burrowing creatures. This was one of the most combat heavy sessions we’ve had for a long time, with fights against a couple of magical creatures.

The combat system for Ars Magica can sometimes be unclear. It shouldn’t be hard, but I think we were rolling dice and using confidence when we shouldn’t. There is also some discussion about how Fast Casting works. The combat system and magic system don’t seem to be tightly integrated. They both work by themselves, but how they overlap sometimes causes us problems.

Pisciculus ex Criamon

For the first time that I remember, one of the villagers was gesturing towards us in a friendly fashion and inviting us to their cottage. They were silently mouthing something as well, as if they were afraid of speaking out loud. Maedbh followed alongside, whilst Allistor and Sid seemed to hang back for a bit, though Allistor decided to join us shortly afterwards.

The old woman told us not to make noise, or to step too hard on the ground. “The worms will hear“. Apparently the creatures have been attacking the village for the last week.

The footprints were made by The Beast. During the day huge worms were burrowing up out of the ground and consuming livestock and people. At night, the Beast would come and fight the worms. Or so she thought – nobody dared to go out at night, but there was a lot of rustling and squelching to be heard as something very big moved around.

There were a younger woman and a middle aged man also in the cottage, and they were shying away from us in a manner I’d come to expect. The old woman however didn’t seem phased by our Gift, so maybe she is a wise woman. She seemed somewhat crazed, but then she had been stuck in a village plagued by carnivorous worms for the last week or so.

After some discussion, we headed off in the direction of the cave hoping that whatever is causing the trouble was based there. As we got to the edge of the forest, the ground began to shake. I didn’t notice this until Maedbh suddenly started moving rapidly to the side making squeaking noises of fear.

A pink-purple worm burst from the ground, a large mouth gaping open and vomiting forth a spray of mucus over Sid. It covered him completely, and quickly began to dry and harden.

Allistor threw two burning bolts of fire at the worm, giving it a nasty burn mark and driving it back in pain. Hamish drew his axe and stepped forward to smite it, but stumbled over the broken ground instead. Seeing that Sid was potentially in trouble, I used Rego Corpus on the mucus covering him to clear it off before it managed to finish setting.

Maedbh created an illusion of a peasant making stomping and squealing noises to attract the worm away from us, though it turned out to be more like a pig than a peasant, along with a smell of bacon. I do hope that isn’t how she views the local peasants. However, it was good enough to turn the worm aside, and it lunged at the image, ending up mouth down in the dirt.

Sid, now freed, pulled out his bow to shoot it, but his bow string snapped. Allistor cast Pull of the Skybound Winds, pulling the worm out of the earth and sending it crashing back down next to us. Hamish stepped forward again and chopped at it, forcing it to writhe back away from us.

Maedbh put up a wall of mist between us and the village, to try and hide what we are doing, but I think it was probably too late for that by now and what few peasants there had been outside had now begun to run inside at the sight of us using magic. Allistor threw the worm back up into the air again, and it smashed into the ground. It didn’t kill it, but it stunned it enough for Sid and Hamish to finish the poor thing off.

There wasn’t much else for us to do, so Maedbh gathered the essence of the beast, reclaiming some vis from its corpse (3 pawns of Terram vis and 1 of Animal vis).

Now that we had time to think, Allistor recalled that there was a faerie lord who had been bothering the covenant of Crun Clach, sending them magical beasts to bother them every few years. He was called the Prince of the Grey Jerkin, and the beasts were said to be his offspring.

That reminded me of a folk legend of a faerie prince who used to round up mortals to play games of shinty. Good ones are dragged off to live with him for many years. He used to own the mound that Crun Clach is built into, which may be why he was pissed with them.

Maedbh headed back to the village to ask them how many worms there were, but most of them have fled. It seems they were now more scared of us than they were of the worms. The old woman was still there though, and she seemed quite impressed rather than scared. She said that there were up to three at one point, but some may have been killed by the other beast.

So once again we tried to head into the woods, following the tracks of the large four footed beast. Going by the tracks, it was maybe the size of an elephant, not that I’ve seen one but I have seen drawings. The cave wasn’t that hard to find, and the tracks became really obvious with the amount of broken vegetation around the outside of the cave.

From out of the cave two gleaming eyes stared at us. Then the beast emerged. It was a hedgehog. A very large hedgehog. As it turned out, it was also very fast. It curled itself into a ball and started rolling down towards us, forcing us all to scatter to the sides.

Maedbh was floundering so Hamish bundled her out of the way, shielding her with his body as the beast crashed into him. I tried to go the other way, but wasn’t fast enough. A spine went through my shoulder as I was knocked to the ground.

As usual, Allistor through fire at it, hitting it with multiple flames. Not wishing to be crushed or spiked again, I started rising up as high above the ground as a could, sheltering in the upper branches of a tree. Now that it had come to a stop, the beast (I hesitate to call it a hedgehog) started to shiver, and then a burst of spines shot out in all directions. For most of us, our Parma protected us, but Sid and Hamish were both caught in the burst.

As I hid behind the tree and Allistor and Sid shot it with fire and arrows, Maedbh turned the ground beneath its feet to mud. Only briefly, but long enough for it to sink down and get trapped as the mud hardened. Eventually it was rendered unconscious and Hamish finished it off.

The cave itself was just large enough for the creature to have curled up in. Crystalline growths could be seen high up on the ceiling, but any vis there had been consumed by the creature. Fortunately the creature itself had vis – 4 pawns of animal and 2 of vim.

I was feeling somewhat in pain after that escapade and was happy to be heading back to the covenant. For now, my wounds could be tended to with magic, but I would need a proper healer when we finally get back.

Samuel Penn

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