It is Autumn in the year 1228 in our Ars Magica saga. In our previous session, we had encountered the trow Bennog, who turned out to be friendly and happy to come back south with us to the covenant. It is time for us to follow up on one of the rumours from a couple of years before:
A strange sickness has been reported in far northern regions of Alba. The victims reportedly suffer from insomnia, and bad dreams when they do manage to sleep. Some go mad, some have killed themselves, and a few have flown into murderous frenzies. Most recover, but they are often shunned by their neighbours who claim that they are somehow ‘different’ after their illness.
Jack, Summer 1228
I have been lumbered with the job of trying to get the new occupant of the covenant to do something useful. He is a large ‘Trow’, or Troll, or something. It seems like he would make for a good guard, but he mostly ignores me when I try to tell him about watch times and how to keep a look out. Much like the rest of the grogs really, but I have the option of percussive tuition with them.
Eventually he decides that he is happy to guard the lower tunnels, as long as we refer to him as “Guardsman Bennog” and let him wear a bronze hat. Oh well.
Pisciculus ex Criamon, Autumn 1228
Come Autumn, the plan is to head north again. This time we plan to go all the way to the top of Scotland. Myself, Allistor and Aodhan head up north, with Blane sailing the boat again and Malcolm coming along as guard. The weather is quite good, as we head up the west coast.
At night, we stop to rest, sometimes at villages and sometimes on our own. When we stop near inns, we ask Blane and Malcolm to mix with the locals and find out rumours. Mostly this goes smoothly, but after a few nights Malcolm manages to get into a fight when one of the locals takes offence at a perfectly sensible comment Malcolm makes about how ugly the man’s daughter is. I mean, he was right, but that was no reason to be rude.
Aodhan tries to break up the fight, when one of the villagers shouts “But they’re tax collectors!”. Aodhan manages to calm people down and persuade everyone that we aren’t tax collectors. Much to the disappointment of Malcolm who seemed to suddenly like the idea of being able to collect money from everyone.
Just when everyone is almost happy, one of the other villagers makes another comment about the other’s daughter. Another brawl starts. At the end, Blane returns to us looking somewhat battered but he was the only one left standing. He declares himself the winner, and no doubt we will here various variations on the story from now until we get back home.
We do pick up rumours that Inverness had been attacked and set fire to.
We continue on up the coast. Later on, we encounter some fishermen who tell us that something weird has been happening at Durness. Some people are taking advantage of the anti-taxation situation to cause their own trouble. Some of the clans, the McKays and the Morrisons, who used to be friendly are now preparing to fight each other. There are rumours that the Morrisons, who are said to have Pictish blood, have been ensorcelled.
Another rumour is that people can’t get a good night’s sleep at Durness, which fits with the rumours we originally heard that sent us up this way.
The McKays have had reinforcements from their Norse allies recently, and are accused of casting magic spells on their enemies.
After asking around, we are directed to a wise woman who lives outside of town. It is suggested that we take a jug of milk or something as a gift. We head to the cottage, which is a small one nestled under some trees. It is old, but well kept. Smoke is rising from a chimney, and there is the sound of something banging from the kitchen.
The noise stops as we approach, and a head pokes out from behind the door. She asks what we want, and I say that we come seeking knowledge about the Morrisons. She says that none of them have had Gruagach for many generations. The McKays however possibly do.
About three centuries ago there were stories about people not being able to sleep, and having dreams of a spider. It went on for quite a while. The giants marched south and the Slough rose, devastating the area for a couple of years. It was that long ago that the Morrisons last had Gruagach in their family.
She also says that there is a Judgement Stone up near the coast near Durness, which people used to be thrown off if they were found guilty.
The grogs report later that she had a strange feeling about her, just like as magi give them a weird feeling. She is very probably gifted, one of the many hedge wizards that can be found in these parts.
We thank her for her time and help, and leave her to continue our journey.
It takes us about a day to get to Durness. It is a reasonable sized village, with various fishing boats drawn up on the beach. The currents around here are quite strong, but Blane is able to sail us in. There is a man who seems to be on guard here, watching us. Malcolm asks whether there is a place to stay for the night, and he points us to one of the two inns, Old Sam’s. Malcolm pays him a penny after he gives advice on where to pull up a boat.
He also tells us that there is a priest here, who is probably at the other inn, The Bell, which is known to be somewhat rowdy. Apparently there is a tradition here that you have to ring the bell occasionally to keep the Good Neighbours away. If you ring the bell, you have to pay for drinks. If you don’t, the Good Neighbours may notice and then they are no longer Good neighbours.
We head to Old Sam’s, which is a standard looking building which has been converted into an inn.
There are some merchants there, who are willing to talk about rumours and stories. Malcolm and Blane buy people drinks. The talk is that there is trouble in the area, especially near Inverness. The merchants also complain to us that isn’t as friendly here as it usually is. A bunch of the locals are giving off a weird feeling, as if nobody is home when they talk to you.
Up in my room, I cast Sense of Faerie Power, but there is no sign of a faerie aua, neither are we in a magical or divine aura. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any aura here at all. Which is unusual, but not entirely unheard of, so it may signify nothing.
Whilst down in the main room, I manage to catch the eye of one of the servers, and Pose the Silent Question, to ask what unusual is going on in the village. Apparently it’s me. Which is nice to know that I’m the biggest threat I suppose. We head to bed to get some rest.
In the morning we are all well rested and there is the smell of porridge from downstairs. Or at least most of us are well rested, since Blane looks like he got very little sleep.