The next morning, his head slightly aching, Acerbus was aware of the Forest, the dark green stain that streched from horizon to horizon to the North of the Covenant.
Acerbus will ask one of the grogs if he can escort him to where the old man (who Julia mentioned the previous night) lives, so that he can ask about the Forest. He will ask the kitchens for some apples and bread, and a little drink to fill his waterskin with, in case he needs to walk into the Forest today.
“Well, sir,” says the grog, a gnarled old man called Egbert who is cleaning some armour out in the sunlight of the courtyard, “I couldn’t exactly tell you. We’ve got people who could show you well enough… Let me have a word with the Captain.”
And he wanders off. A little while later you Acerbus was in the kitchens when the armed and armoured woman who had been introduced as the commander of the turb came in with Egbert. Acerbus had asked for some supplies for his day’s jaunt when she asked if that was intended to go and visit the Bowyer in the forest.
Being told yes she says: “Well, sir. I suppose I could just let you wander in but… You’re a Merinita and all so naturally the thought of the Fair Folk doesn’t bother you the way it does the rest of us but there are plenty of other hazards in the Forest and as you don’t know your way I’d be happier to give you an escort. Just a couple of fellows who know the way and are known to young Will. Yes, he’s not an old fellow… Perhaps you’re thinking of his parens, Robin of the Wood? He’s no longer with us but his heir has carried on his tradition. Will the Red. For his hair, you know.”
And she points out two of the turb standing ready for inspection in their armour and carrying their weapons (the turb has been at arms practice): a tall spearman and a short, ferret like bowman.
“Please, introduce me to them. I know a few words of English, so we should be able to make the journey.”
Acerbus smiles, and thinks of anything he might need to travel into the woodland.
Acerbus nods to the two men who are known as Wat the Hunter and Big Harold. (There isn’t a Small Harold anymore, he will learn. ‘Not since the thing with the bear.’)
He wracks his brains for what he might need. (Rolls Int plus Survival)
@MichaelCule asked for a die roll:
(I’ll get the hang of this eventually!)
He knows enough to ask the two guides how long it will take to get to the bowyer’s place.
Wat squints at the sky and allows how you’ll probably get there before dark. Provided it doesn’t rain and you don’t get attacked by wolves. “And it’s a fair distance to Will the Red’s place, to be sure. If you’re going to be talking to him too long we might have to stay overnight…”
Big Harold grins and rolls his eyes. “Don’t pour your nonsense in the magister’s ears! Forgive him, sir: he always worries and assumes the worst. It’s a fine day and we should be there by just gone noon at the latest. We’ll have to leave the road, such as it is but if we make good time you can spend the afternoon there and we can get home in time for supper. Get yourself some extra water and maybe some dried meat or fruit and we’d even be good to stay out overnight.”
And when you’ve done that the two of them lead you out of the gate and towards a road leading into the forest.
Acerbus walks along the road, taking a look at the trees and plants, trying to familiarise himself. The woods here are a little different from his homeland.
@MichaelCule asked for a die roll:
Wat the Hunter glides along like a ghost. He barely touches the ground but keeps an eye out in all directions.
Big Harold just galumphs along. Breaking twigs, leaving a clear trail.
Wat’s Area Lore Plus Perception
stress 1+7: 1 × 3 = 3, +7 = total 10
Big Harold’s Area Lore Plus Perception
stress 1: 0 (no botch), = 0
About an hour into your journey as you wander along the beaten path that is all that is left of the quite wide road that you started out your journey on, Wat holds up a hand and hisses “Quiet!” and then after listening for a moment “Off the road! Quick like!”
The two of you follow him and a short while later a tall, fair man on horseback, a sword at his side, rides by. He is followed by a slightly less fair, less well equipped man on a less expensive looking horse.
When they have gone by Wat says: “The new Constable and Sergeant Stanley. The good sergeant and I ain’t friends. This way.”
And he leads you off into the forest, abandoning the road.
Big Harold makes even more noise, frightening off the birds and red squirrels.
Eventually, you reach a clearing in the forest. It is not at all clear to you how the two men found it but you did notice Wat stop just before reaching it and make a series of animal cries. He listened for something and then went on.
As you come forwards towards the wooden shelter constructed into a small rise and very well camoflaged a man in a leather apron and with bright red hair comes out to greet you. “Wat! Good greeting! Are you losing my arrows so fast then?”
“Nay, Will. Still keeping them for best. But this is Magister Acerbus, new come to Voluntas. Wishes to have a word with you.”
Acerbus will say in somewhat broken English “Hallo Will! I am Acerbus. I am like Phe-Sa-Lia. Did you see her before she went into the woods?”
The bowyer blinks and then replies in Latin that is only slightly better than your English:
“Ah, yes! I know the Magistra. She… Well, she passed through my glen last year. Has something happened to her? I know she seemed excited and eager to be off. There was a… a member of the Good Folk with her. You say you are like her? Merinita?”
“Like her, I follow Merinita. She has spent long time with the… Good Folk you say? I wish to make sure she has come to no harm and is staying of her own will”
“Tell me, what are the goodly folk of this forest like?”
He frowns and asks you to come and share his midday meal within his home: he calls out to a woman that there will be guests and she should break out some ale.
When you are all seated and have food and drink (simple bread, some butter and cheese, strong ale) in front of you he says a grace in Latin and tucks in. His wife (?) is a good looking blonde woman a little younger than him.
“I am not the expert in Faerie Lore that your house might produce but I do know enough to avoid the places in this forest that are heavily attuned to their realm. There are three that I know of though the Fair Folk will appear where their peculiar natures call them to become entangled in the affairs of mortals.”
“The first place is a clearing in the forest to the north west of here. It may be part of a regio: I am not certain but my old master Robin told me that it was a place where he once ran into a great assembly of the Good Neighbours. He had gone looking for a companion of his who had been missing for several days and found that he had foolishly become entangled in the affections of a ‘pale maiden’.” He snorts. “The pale maiden was leading him round by a ring in his nose by the time Robin found him and he had to prove himself in a hunt for a magical deer to obtain his release. If you look for the High Court of the Other Side there is where I would look.”
“The second is a lake to the south east of here. I have never enountered her myself but it is said that a creature of the water lives there and calls all who fish in the lake to join her. She may be a ghost or something other than Fay but Phesillia went and spoke with her once.”
“The third is an old Roman road that runs through the woods to the West side, almost due north of Pickering. It’s ends to north and south are overgrown and abandoned: I don’t know why as Roman roads generally last for a long time and many are still in use. That said it is a safe place to travel fast through the woods… except that at one point the sound of marching feet can be heard. Again I do not know for certain this is of the Gentry but it may be.”
When you ask your two guards and guides say that they know the old Roman Road well and say that it is simple enough to find.
The lake they think they can find but it would be better to approach it from a different edge of the woods rather than struggle through the unpathed interior of the woods.
As to the glade to the North, they say that ‘the Magistra’ stoutly forbade them to ‘go blundering around there without my presence’. She said that it was the heart of the local Fair Folk and that their blundering presence would be bound to tempt them to mischief.
Acerbus ponders and says "Thank you, that was most helpful. I’m sure I will need to go to the glade sooner or later, but I should know the land better.
I may go to the lake soon, as I am keen to see the local waters."
Looking at Wat and Big Harold he says, “I think my first visit would be to the Roman road. I should check if the marching is from the Gentry or if it is something else.”
Wat replies: 'Aye Magister. We’ve been there before. Finish up your nuncheon, Harold and if we make good time we can inspect the road and be home in time for supper."
The bowyer and his companion give you some fruit to take with you on the road. He tells you to remember him to Magistra Julia and Magister Corvus. “So many changes at Voluntas! I shall have to come and visit the next time I travel to Pickering for the fair so I can meet my new colleagues. A safe journey to your rest tonight.”
He and the woman watch you go and as you glance back at them you can see a tension you had not noticed before pass through them as if they were nervous about something… But what it might be you cannot tell.
The afternoon sun shines through the trees and the forest is more pleasant than threatening. Nonetheless your escort keeps a close eye out for trouble. A short time later Wat holds up his hand and signals for quiet.
Ahead of you, by a stream, two men are in conference while their horses drink.
One is the man Wat identified earlier as the ‘new Constable’ and the other is unfamiliar to you. He is dressed in leather armour, lined with grey fur. It and his arms (sword, shield with no device) have seen some considerable use. His face is lined and his hair greying but he carries himself unstooped by age. There is something not… English about his appearance but you cannot put your finger on the difference.
Sergeant Stanley stands a little way away, where the stream crosses a path through the forest, guarding to keep his master from being disturbed while he talks with this fellow.
Do you wish to try to overhear what they are saying? Send Wat forward to do the same? Or quietly wait until the conference ends and you can be on your way without further ado. Also without further information…
“Wat! Try and hear what they are saying?” Acerbus whispers.
Being aware he is Gifted, Acerbus does not wish to risk being seen by the man.
@MichaelCule asked for a die roll:
Wat nods and gestures for you and Big Harold to stay back. He lays his bow on the ground at your feet and moves forward, low and slinky.
Let’s see now. Perception plus Stealth to see how close he gets. Two botch dice given the circumstances. If this goes wrong it could go very wrong.
stress 2+5: 1 × 4 = 4, +5 = total 9
There is a tense few moments as Wat heads forward and hovers behind a tree on the far side of the stream from the two men.
Eventually, the two men part with a handshake, mount up and leave. Wat comes back after all three men have gone well out of earshot.
“Well, magister I could hardly understand the stranger. He’s a Scot I think though he might be a borderer. He was asking the sherriff’s help to find someone: a bastard child of… well, I didn’t get that. The sheriff was annoyed to be bothered by it but at the end he said to the northerner “Remember me to your noble master” so he’s probably obliged. And I heard him mention Wilton. He didn’t say anything about magi: but he said 'Ask around in Wilton, that’s your best bet. 'totther fellow went off northwards though not towards our neck of the woods.”
“A bastard child? Perhaps of a scot or a border lord? I don’t know of anyone like that, but perhaps Lady Julia or someone at the covenant would have an idea.”
Acerbus looks ahead into the woods. “Let’s head on to the Roman road.”