It is spring, 1227 in our Ars Magica saga of Druids’ Dale. Last session, we covered most of 1226, picking up rumours, partaking in lab work and investigating some minor things. Come spring, it is time to go off on another major adventure. I decided to take my companion character along, since though my maga was interested in investigating the fae, she probably wasn’t going to be well suited.
Note that Redcap is a term used to describe the messengers of the Order of Hermes, the magi of House Mercere. We are not looking for those Redcaps, but the nasty fae kind that have sharp nails, stompy boots and a bad attitude.
Jack, Spring 1227
There is a plan from the magi to head north to Skene, to hunt down some Redcaps. From what little I know of these creatures is that they have a mean attitude and are likely to be violent. There were also rumours of a knight on a unicorn. I’m not sure where that fits into things, but it definitely sounds like faerie stuff. It’s probably a good thing that Maedbh is coming with us. She is threatening to take her sword though, which would be concerning if she started swinging it about.
The quickest route will be across to Edinburgh. From there, it should be possible to get a boat up along the coast to Aberdeen. Skene is just inland of that city.
Allistor comes with us, along with two of our grogs, Blane and Callen. There is a discussion about what to take with us – horseshoes, crosses and bells are amongst the items discussed. Aodhan gives me some bible text to learn. What does he expect me to do? Read it out whilst I could be hitting something with a sword or axe?
We get to Edinburgh with relatively little trouble, and try to find a captain who can take us up to Aberdeen. Visiting the taverns down at the docks, it isn’t too hard to find someone who has a ship going the right way and which is leaving in the morning. It’s only a few shillings for a spot on the deck of the ship. My biggest concern is Allistor who might make the crew unhappy due to giving everyone the creeps. I guess I should be happy with Pisciculus isn’t with us as well.
The next morning, the winds are both strong and in the wrong direction, so we spend the day at a brothel. The next day, the weather is ideal, and we set sail on the Queen’s Hart. We get to Aberdeen the following day without incident, and then head inland towards Skene.
On the way, we pass a small group of burned out buildings. At Skene, there is a wooden stockade around it. It’s quite a busy village, with a lot of work being down on finishing the stockade. Not far from here is a large wood.
A group of armed men come out to meet us, and we offer our services to help them with their troubles. Maedbh smooths over their worries, and we are invited in for food and a chart. After the meal, we are met by Sean. He says that there has been trouble since the woods came. Huh? Apparently, last year the forest changed into different types of trees. It used to be pine woods, but other trees seem to move in and now the pines are gone.
Three or four of the local villages have been attacked and pillaged. Most of the villages have fled to either Aberdeen or here, and now Skene is having difficulty supporting everyone.
Some nobles went into the woods last year, but they didn’t come back. There were about a dozen of them, and they looked properly tooled up. There was also a group of ‘scholars’. They did come back, but looked slightly beaten up. I guess the latter lot were magi.
Small men with red caps and pointed staves have been responsible for the attacks. They jump around, and have sharp teeth and nails with oversized heads. There is also talk of a horse with a horn on its head, and some cottages covered in cobwebs.
We decide to head to the woods to see what is going on there. According to Maedbh, the ‘faerie aura’ is getting stronger as we approach. I think that means that weird shit is more likely. In any case, myself and the grogs ensure that we are fully suited up in armour, and that our weapons are sharp. Maedbh puts flowers in her hair. I’m not entirely certain how that is going to help, but she is also bringing her sword with her, strapped down the back of her dress.
We head into the woods, with myself leading the way along with Blane. The magi are next, with Callen taking up the rear. The woods are thick and gloomy, with not much sign of human habitation. We don’t see any animals, though there are some bird calls from the canopy. The ground is peculiar. It all looks kind of untouched. Some of the ground looks churned, as if it has been furrowed, but the furrows just end at trees. Almost as if they had been caused by the trees themselves. Maybe the trees did walk here, dragging themselves across the ground? I’ve seen enough weirdness around these magi that I can believe that.
We head back out to the wood’s edge, with a plan to navigate around the outside. We come to a stone circle which is sitting right on the edge of the woods, almost as if it is holding the woods back. Maedbh takes a look at the circle, and stands within it, casting some magic. She then steps into the trees, and casts magic again. Apparently the level of magic in the woods is higher than the land around, but it is stronger still within the circle.
Standing in the circle, things feel better. Maedbh mutters something about her sword feeling angry, which makes no sense. But again, this is magi that we’re talking about.
Not far from the stone circle we find some tracks. They are like boot prints, quite deep. Maedbh has Allistor stick an iron nail into one of the boot prints. Nothing happens, which doesn’t surprise me.
We head back in the woods. After a few minutes, I notice a mound of earth which has some metal buried in it. Clearing away the growth and dirt, it reveals an ancient suit of armour. It is rusty, and the leather has rotted away. The skeletal remains of the owner can be seen still wearing it. Looking around, Blane finds a second mound covering armour.
Allistor casts his spell to make a big hole, which reveals several suits of armour, some skeletons and a skeletal horse. We take the remains and head back out of the wood, where the magi start casting their incantations. Maedbh thinks they were killed through violence, which isn’t actually anything we didn’t already guess.
Allistor tries to magic a pit, but something seems to go wrong. Instead there is a rumbling, and a column of earth erupts from the ground, sending the bits of armour up into the air. We are left with a 15ft tall pillar of stone with armour stuck to the top.
This looks rather unnatural, so obviously the solution to magic going wrong is more magic. He creates a wave of earth to try and knock the pillar down. It stays standing, unaffected. He then creates a pit underneath it. We are left with a nine foot wide pit, with a great big pillar of stone raising up out of it. I try to suggest that we should leave things alone before they are made even worse, but the magi continue to discuss ways to make it worse.
Eventually they decide to wait until sunset, when the magic of magi fails. The stone collapses into nothing. Allistor then uses more magic to try and cover over the hole.
With everything almost back to normal, we head back towards the village, with the magi discussing the phases of the moon and other things which I understand less.