Returning to our Ars Magica campaign after a few weeks, we are following up on some rumours that we heard at the end of Winter. Everybody had wanted to wait until the Summer before travelling, so in our previous session we had stuck to lab work.
At the beginning of the Summer reason, Pisciculus, Aodhan, Allistor ex Miscellaneous and our grogs Blane and Callen heading up the western coast of Scotland in a boat to find the iron mines at Glen Docherty.
In this session, I think I set a record by rolling 49 on a quickness check. In Ars Magica, you roll a d10 when making a stress test, adding your skill to it (which will normally be +1 to +5). A roll of 10 is zero and a potential botch, a roll of 1 means roll again and double. I rolled three ones followed by a 6, for a total die roll of 48. The +1 from my actual quickness was pretty irrelevant.
Pisciculus ex Criamon, Summer 1228
We have heard rumours of strange goings near some iron mines at Glen Docherty. People have been telling of bad dreams, and those that sleep alone at night have vanished by morning. So we head north, and spend seven days in a small boat going up the western coast. We arrive at Loch Maree in the afternoon, and we pull up at a small dock near the village of Taagan.
There are several brochs and a barn, but not much else. There don’t seem to be many people around, though the sound of gaelic voices drifts down from the village. There is a column of smoke rising from up the valley, and there is the smell of wood smoke on the air which does a bit to mask the somewhat foetid boggy smell.
There are plenty of midges here, and they seem to take a liking to me. I cast a small Muto Corpus spell to keep them away. A few minutes late, Allistor does something similar with Rego Animal as they start going for him instead. This leaves Blane to be the target of their attention.
Aodhan goes up to one of the brochs and knocks on the door. The door is answered by a man, and we are asked where we are from. “Ireland” says Aodhan, which raises the obvious question why would he bother to come all that way just to come here.
Aodhan is invited inside, and it is pointed out that there is a Broch across the way which is set aside for visitors. Aodhan has a long chat with them about gossip and rumours and other things which aren’t related to our quest.
Eventually they get around to say that wandering out in the glenn is dangerous, for something has been haunting the hills for about a year. They don’t know what, but people have been dying.
They started mining in the bog again recently, since it had been mined out for about a generation. There’s not much to eat here about, so they brought in sheep. Something started breaking in and stealing the sheep. They put people on guards, but they saw a really tall man-like figure which they ran away from. It ended up eating all the sheep, but never came back.
Then there was an earthquake, which wasn’t too bad. It was after that that they noticed that sometimes people started vanishing. They would go out onto the bog alone, sometimes camping out. Their bodies were found some time later.
Then, over about a week, everyone who was still out there died. Their bodies had large chunks taken out of them, but there was no sign of blood. There are now only ten of them left, and they sleep here together so nobody is left alone. They are unable to work effectively though, and those relying on them for iron are having to make do with less.
There was another hamlet just to the north, which was inhabited before the earthquake. It is now deserted, but the tall man was thought to come from there.
Aodhan is provided with food, and food is taken out to Allistor and myself who are by now settled into the guest quarters since the locals think there’s something odd about us. It is explained that we are from England (not entirely true), which they accept as the reason for our oddness.
They still have the bodies, which haven’t had a proper burial yet, so Aodhan is asked to give them their rites. Which means we could talk to their bodies tonight.
So later that evening, after sunset, we leave Aodhan with the villagers and head south to where the bodies are. It is dark, so I cast Eyes of the Cat which helps my vision.
The bodies are in shallow graves, and Allistor is able to move the rocks and earth aside. The corpse isn’t in a great state, but is mostly there. Chunks are missing, including the liver.
How did you die? Don’t know. Died.
What is the last thing you remember? Went to bed. Was tired, but couldn’t get to sleep. Snoring was keeping him up.
Who was snoring? Mark
You didn’t go to bed alone? There were five or six of us in the Broch.
We do another one, but it’s head is too badly damaged to be able to talk.
For the third one, he said Couldn’t breathe.
What was stopping you from breathing? Something on his face.
Anything strange happen that day? A strange thing that day was an earthquake, the night before.
What were they doing? Celebrating the Winter Solstice on the day before the Earthquake.
We had back to our broch, and take turns for guard duty. Whilst I am on duty, I don’t notice anything so go back to sleep until morning.
One of the locals leads us in the direction of the hamlet. It takes a couple of hours to get to a point where the man leaves us, and then it’s another couple of hours of tramping through muddy bog.
The brochs are partially collapsed, but nothing unexpected from having been abandoned for several months. There are signs that there were some winter solstice festivities here before the place was abandoned. There is nothing unusually looking in the remains of the fire, and there is just a slight faerie aura here.
Allistor finds a trail that leads to the north, which seems to be an indent in the earth. It leads to a set of brambles. Allistor and myself move the brambles out of the way, revealing a bit of a clearing. A bit more magic, and we find a crack in the hill side. It is about 4ft tall, about 3ft wide at the base narrowing to about 1ft at the top.
Allistor squeezes into the fissure, and produces some light which allows me to follow. The passage then drops about 5ft, and then there’s a branching of passages. There seems to be light coming from the left most passage. Allistor switches off his light, and sneaks ahead, whilst I stay back to see what happens.
The passage leads into a large cave which is illuminated by some fungus. There is some strange glistening on the walls. I am called down, and take a look at the glistening. The glisten is some sort of gelatinous stuff, which starts to move down the wall. It all looks really interesting, but then there is the sound of something glomping from the corridor which we had just come in through.
Deciding that safety may be more pressing than curiosity at this point, we quickly make our way back towards the entrance. From up the other tunnel we catch sight of a semi transparent mound of something moving up the tunnel. I vanish out of the hole faster than I have ever moved before.
Allistor is able to temporarily block up the fissure, but we will need a mundane approach to blocking it up permanently. Blane and Aodhan head back to the village to seek some help. During the trip back, Aodhan falls into a pool of water, and needs to be pulled out by Blane.
The villagers come back to the clearing, but are confused because the fissure is already closed up due to Allistor’s magic. Aodhan tries to explain, and the villagers get the idea that Aodhan prayed the rock into place and is some sort of miracle worker. This can only come back to cause us trouble later.
They mix up some cement and over the course of the night manage to seal up the hole permanently.
I’m almost disappointed, since I’d like to have obtained a sample of whatever it was. Presumably it had been freed by the earthquake and was coming out to smother the villagers. Hopefully they will be safe now. But there is still the issue of the tall man.