(A writeup of the Crumbling Land campaign)
As this is written in character, please add any changes or additions to the page as footnotes. Ash
My Lord of Isca,
I trust things are well now I have gone. I am truly sorry to have had to make you choose between your household warband leader and your champion and respect your decision to not allow us to settle the matter with blood.
As requested here is a report on how the adventure to the caves progresses. While it was against your wishes, I have informed my companions that I was too make such a report. I submit to your judgment when I return. I have no defense except my word that I shall not behave dishonourably.
Our trip to the caves took 8 days, including passage across the Severn Sea. Thank you for the gold to finance this - the tight Magi of your lands would have had me walk through three kingdoms otherwise.
My initial impressions of my travelling companions were mixed. I know Anuryn and Gareth from my youth. Gareth is still the slow witted but dependable creature he always was. He possesses not an ounce of guile but even I, your ex-champion wouldn't want to meet him on the battle field. Anuryn has not grown much since he was a lad, but unlike Gareth or I he fears the fae and sees them everywhere. I fear for his sanity, especially as he seems sympathetic to the followers of the Christian nailed god.
As such why the magi of Isca chose Ophelia to be one of our travelling companions is a mystery. I am not a wise man so why they chose to send an obviously Elfin maga with Anuryn is beyond my ken. Elenor the other maga is also a mystery. She comes from the Isca Covenant but seems to delight in the arms of anyone that wishes her company.
In addition, we took several employees of the covenant - Bicir, an apprentice magus, 5 men-at-arms(the twins Grim and Halfgrim, Gerard, Credo and Ignatio) and Reeve Bliant and his wife.
When we reached the caves, the Magus, Maga and apprentice spent a few days grovelling around in the damp dark. I assumed nothing good could come of this and spent my time trying to batter the men-at-arms into shape and investigating the lie of the land. The caves are at the bottom of a long cut in the hills - we're camped at the bottom though we may have to move if flooding is a problem.
As I said, nothing good did come of the delving into the hillsides. At daybreak of the third day we found that Bicir had been assaulted and Bliant had gone - apparently run out of the bottom of the gorge and headed off down a game trail. Myself, Gareth, Ophelia and Anuryn went to search him out, for obviously he'd taken leave of his senses and ought to be restrained.
After a couple of miles we discovered a dead body, killed with a single dagger thrust in the guts. It was probably a painful way to die. Gareth had one of his visions then, Bliant bending over the body, laying his hands on it. I have no reason to doubt Gareth's visions, they have always contained truth in the past, so this made our task to find Bliant doubly urgent. If his moon fuelled rampage wasn't stopped we'd have a local warband arrayed against our small camp by sunset.
In another hour, we'd reached the small town that we'd been trying to avoid since reaching the caves. Gareth, with the innocence of a child expressed his sympathy for the death of one of their towns folk and asked after Bliant in a totally honest way. He was convinced that Bliant had taken something from the dead man and was trying to return it.
Eventually, we did what we should have done immediately on reaching the caves, and met with the mayor, Lowengrim. Fortunately my companions stayed out of the way and I was able to convince him of our honest intent. It turned out that the body we had found belonged to a hunter called Edern. I promised weregild if Bliant turned out to be guilty of the slaying and it was suggested we didn't leave the town.
The only person we could find that admitted to seeing Bliant was a baker. He'd seen a stranger heading out of town a couple of hours previously. We decided to go and try and pick up his trail and then decide what to do. At the edge of town Ophelia and Anuryn found a halfwit, Mordrain, grovelling in a midden, lookig for food. With a bribe of a loaf and some coins he told us that he'd seen Bliant kissing the local nailed priest, Beasly.
We located the house of the nailed god, we'd been past it earlier, easily. Mordrain seemed to have taken a shine to Ophelia's coin and Anuryn's loaf dispensing powers and followed us. Anuryn worked a spell to render those inside the house insensible, or more insensible than they are normally with their strange beliefs. Every time I see one of the magi work their strange enchantments I can see why you mistrust them. Only the gods should wield that sort of power.
Inside, we found everyone asleep and Bliant into the bargain. Looking at him, you'd think he was on death's door, he looked more like his father, the old reeve than he did himself. Prudently I disarmed him while Gareth picked him up like a child. I carved the horns of Cerunos onto the house's cross, to show them their god couldn't protect them.
Anuryn and Ophelia told me that Bliant had obviously been enchanted, and that we couldn't rely on local justice for a fair hearing. I should have stayed and pitted my right arm against anyone that dared judge him, but they're wiser than I so I agreed we should return to the gorge with Bliant.
We walked around the town, making our way back to the gorge. Mordrain followed us, talking all the time to Ophelia. Amazing how gold overcomes fear when you're hungry. When we were safe Ophelia performed some magic on Bliant and found his will had been taken by some creature of the night, but that the thing had moved on. Anuryn suggested that it might have been passed on by the kiss to the nailed priest.
As we got going, Ophelia saw a pair of men approaching from our camp from about a mile away. Whatever else you might say about Ophelia's eyes, they're as sharp as a hawk. We hid, against my better judgement - as we had nothing to hide and nothing to fear I was a bit sceptical about staying hidden, but again Anuryn's judgement sounded more considered than mine in this case.
As they approached, I heard one of them mention that they'd found our camp. Half of me wanted to spring out and slay them before they could return to Lowengrim and report or location, and other half realised that we were the ones in the wrong. We'd brought Bliant here to slay their man Edern and now we broke every rule of hospitality by leaving the scene of the wrongs without answering for him.
Fortunately my mental turmoil was cleared by good Gareth. He simply stepped out of hiding and talked to them. After a conversation we agreed to return to the village the following day and answer the case against Bliant. The men retreated at a run, we retreated to the gorge.
When we got there, the Magus, Maga and apprentice tried to help Bliant. Ophelia seemed to act a bit strange towards Bicir though. I didn't really notice what was going on as I was briefing the men about defending the camp in case trouble arrived.
(end of first session)
Ophelia tried looking into Bliant's mind again. This time she told us that he'd been okay until he'd gone off up the Gorge with Bicir. Anuryn suggested that whatever had attacked Bliant, had, like us been attracted by the magic of the Gorge.
I talked to Bicir who told us that Bliant and him had gone up the Gorge searching for anything that might tell us where the old Covenent was. It was decided to retrace Bicir and Bliant's steps to see if we could find anything practical to our current situation. Credo, Grim and Half-Grim, Bicir, Ophelia and Elenor accompanied me. After a couple of hours following the river we found a spur who's source emanated from a hard face of rock.
Grim reckoned he could swim under the rock face and see if anything was under there. Bicir seemed strangely non-commital about what Bliant and himself had done while in this area. I could feel in my water that it would all go horribly wrong, so we tied him to a rope so we could pull him out. When he emerged again he told us that he'd seen a figure watching him as he emerged into a small cave about 2 or 3 paces into the rock face.
Ophelia immediately performed some magic to see if she could see what was in the cave, but couldn't see anyone. Mindful of Bliant's behaviour I kept an eye on Half-Grim while she did this, but could see no change in him. Elenor then volunteered to lead a small party into the cave to see what they could see. Against my better judgment Ophelia agreed that Credo, Half-Grim and Elinor should go.
Inside I'm not really clear what happened. From what Half-Grim said, they encountered some phantasm creature and Elenor disapeared. He said that when he touched the phantasm he felt regret that Edern had died. Elenor reported that when she disapeared she found her way to another realm in which she fought with the source of the phantasm, some sort of undead Magi that couldn't leave the caves. Normally I wouldn't have believed such a fantastical tale, but she is a Maga and knows of these matters.
After the three of them left the cave, Bicir finally opened up and admitted to Ophelia that he'd found a small gem which Bliant stole when he attacked him. Grim suggested that perhaps Bicir's act of theft had awakened the curse that had fallen on Bliant. If so, then the responsibility for Edern's death and his own assault was Bicir's.
On the way back to camp, Credo seemed to be asking a lot of questions of Elenor and Ophelia about how much gems like those Bliant had found were worth. I thought nothing of it as Credo's always been a chancer. Back at our camp Credo repeated his question and you should have seen the look on his face when Anuryn threatened him with mortal danger if he took anything from the caves and didn't tell us about it. After that, Credo seemed a lot more subdued and didn't make any more enquiries about other treasure finds. (1)
The next day, I was determined to fufill my agreement with Lowengrim and return to the village to give an account of what had happened to Edern. While some of the magi weren't that happy with the idea, I wouldn't be deterred from it. After all, a man not willing to stand by his word or his Lord is no man at all. Elenor, Ignatio and Credo accompanied me. For some reason, Anuryn, who was intending to go and see the cave for himself, didn't want Credo accompanying him.
On reaching the village I stuck my sword in the ground outside Lowengrim's door and issued a challenge to anyone that wished to proclaim our guilt in the matter of the death of Edern.
(end of second session)
(1) Credo showed Elenor a piece of quartz he'd found in the caves, and gave it to her on account for later financial consideration. Anuryn noticed that Credo was talking to Elenor and overhead their conversation. He used magic to determine that the quartz contained 4 pawns of raw Vis (no idea what type) and then went and used "aura of righteous authority" to bend Credo to his will.