Ann Arbor Adventure

The Tower Part II
and you thought this place was scary before...

Need to actually write up this post:  exploring the tower and Angharad getting kidnapped

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The Tower Part I
Entering

Sometime in the middle of the night, Branwyn wakes to find Angharad studying her horse.  Chava also wakes, but she holds her tongue and observes, while Branwyn (as usual) can't refrain from asking questions.

"What are you doing?" Branwyn inquires, curiously.

"Shouldn't you be asleep?" Angharad looks sidelong at the ranger.

"Probably," Branwyn shrugs, "but I'm not.  What're you doing?"

"I was curious about the horse's markings." Angharad finally answers.

"Find anything interesting?"

"No." Angharad replies, and walks away, but doesn't leave Chava's protective circle.  Branwyn shrugs, and goes back to sleep.

 

In the morning, all rise early.  Kai, dreading the events of the day, pretends to be asleep.  Branwyn checks her traps and finds three rabbits caught in the snares, which she brings back to camp to clean and cook for breakfast.  Angharad is displeased.

"It is not advisable to go into the presence of such things as the tower with blood on your hands."

After some back and forth, Angharad throws up her hands and pronounces that the consequences will be on Branwyn's head.  Branwyn continues to skin the rabbits (treating the pelts and saving them for later sale or barter), and begins cooking.  While she's cleaning them, Anfri approaches her, almost smiling.

"If you don't want one of those, I'll take it."

Branwyn hands one of the rabbits to him, and Anfri walks to the edge of the campsite to eat it.  His tail wags a little as he saunters away.  When Angharad glares at him, he shrugs it off.  Apparently, the wolf is not concerned about blood.

Before they depart, everyone washes carefully in the nearby stream, as much to keep Angharad from being snippy as to clean themselves.  Kai is still pretending to sleep while everyone else packs up and prepares to leave.  When Owain tries to wake him, Kai protests (pretending to be talking in his sleep), and tries to trip Owain, but manages to tangle himself in his cloak.  When everyone else has gone, Kai frantically scrambles to untangle himself, and runs after them, terrified that bunnies with sharp teeth will be after him.

After a short walk, they arrive at the edge of a barren clearing.  A large, shimmering, black tower stretches up to the sky in a single piece, with no joints or individual stones to be seen.  Chava steps close to it, but is careful not to touch it, announcing that if she had to guess, it was made of some kind of alloy, though she's not sure what.  Kai is baffled by this, and proceeds to go round and round about how the tower could grow out of the ground if it were made of metal.  Chava shrugs, "Hey, I didn't build it." 

Now that they are all gathered at the base of the tower, everyone looks at Angharad for what to do next.  She points out that there are windows a little down from the top, and that with a rope running over one of the crenelations, they might climb up to it.  Everyone looks at each other, noting that they don't have that much rope (Kai, who probably does, stays silent).  Angharad rolls her eyes and pulls some sturdy cord, rope, and a rope ladder out of her pack.  When Murphy continues to inquire how they're going to get the rope up there, Angharad makes a slighting comment about the people with 'stick-throwing equipment'.  Kai is offended, and promptly grabs the rope items from Anghrad, fastens them together, and the cord to one of his arrows, and makes it on the first shot.  Branwyn is very impressed, not so much that it was such a good shot, but more that she was surprised that Kai could do something useful.  Quite proud of himself, Kai then proceeds to pull up the rope and the ladder, and to securely fasten them to a sturdy tree. 

Branwyn asks who will go first, and turns to Anfri, "You, wolf, why don't you go?"

Anfri just smiles, showing all of his teeth, "Don't worry.  I'll be right behind you."

Angharad is starting to get a little irritated, "It would probably be good for one of you with pointy sticks to go first."

Branwyn pokes Angharad playfully with her bow, and is rewarded with a depreciating glare, then stows her gear and starts climbing the ladder.  Owain follows, then Angharad, Kai, Murphy, and Chava, while Anfri sits at the base of the tower and watches them.   Not that she's particularly trying to be quiet, but Branwyn makes a lot of noise as she climbs the tower.  Her bow, in particular, which was not securely fastened, keeps smacking into the wall.  It seems that the clatter has disturbed a nest of something, as a large bat-like creature flies out of the window and attacks Branwyn, cutting the leather armor on her neck.  Branwyn manages to draw her sword, and slices the creature in half, sending a shower of blood onto those climbing the ladder.  Kai calls up a "good job", and Branwyn calls back a "thanks", before putting her sword away and climbing into the window, only to find herself face to face with two more of the creatures.  Owain, hearing Branwyn's exclamation, hurries to follow her, and manages to get his foot caught on the ladder.  He nearly falls, but manages to catch himself, and eventually pulls himself back onto the ladder.

Inside the tower, Branwyn finds herself standing on stairs, which sprial down the inside of the tower.  There are no railings, and the center shaft of the tower falls away into darkness.  There is little light inside. Branwyn's attackers miss in their initial swipes, but she misses them as well.  Owain finally clambers in the window, only to fall down the stairs in his attempt to avoid careening into Branwyn.  Angharad is much more graceful, and heads up the stairs, to get out of the way, and is promptly attacked by another pair of the flying creatures.  Kai has trouble at the window.

Branwyn's attackers manage to get past her shield, one of them scratching at her neck, and the other actually latching on with its sharp teeth.  In response, Branwyn drops her shield, and rips the creature off her neck.  Owain attempts to help, but misses.  Angharad's attackers miss, and her attempt to defend herself with her staff is unsuccessful.  Branwyn's glove is shredded as the still free creature attacks her, but Kai finally heaves himself through the window, draws his sword, and slices through both of the flying things with one stroke.  Murphy follows, gracefully, and Angharad's attackers turn their attention to Kai.  She attempts to strike one of them, but only manages to crack her staff against the wall.  She grimaces, unhappily, as the wood splits.  Kai is unfazed, and easily kills the first creature who attacks him, while Branwyn finishes off the second.  Chava climbs in, and Murphy turns to Branwyn to investigate her injuries.  Angharad, meanwhile, has moved up the staircase slightly, and draws a circle on the ground in chalk.  No one pays much attention to her, but in a few moments, they are surprised to see that the wolf has joined her in the circle.

"Nice trick!" Branwyn exclaims.  Angharad rolls her eyes and starts cleaning up the circle.  "Thanks" Anfri grins, but when Branwyn reaches out to pat him on the head, he snaps at her, not aggressively, just a warning.

"I don't suppose we have a light?" Branwyn continues.

"You didn't bring torches?" Angharad asks, looking yet more disgruntled at the group's lack of preparation.  She pulls out an oil lamp, and she and Chava pore over it for a while, obviously doing something.  Eventually it lights, and Angharad hands the device to Chava.  

Murphy's attempt to heal Branwyn was unsuccessful, so Angharad and Kai step up.  Angharad's spell is finished first, and fully heals Branwyn.  That being dealt with, Angharad steps out, "Now that we're inside, it is probably best that I go first." 

 

 

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Monday Morning
Nothing like a nice jaunt in the woods...

As usual, Murphy rises early.  He is joined at breakfast by Branwyn.  Chava is apparently still upstairs, packing up.  Kai and Owain sleep soundly, until Kai's dreaming startles him into tumbling off the bed.  Of course, Kai accuses Owain of pushing him out, at which unjust harassment, Owain heads down to breakfast.

Branwyn goes up to check on Chava, who is just packing the last of her things.  She comes down to breakfast, to find the rest in confused discussion as to whether they are supposed to wait for Angharad or not.  Kai seems to think that they should keep traveling, and if the 'scary Green Lady' really wants their help, she'd come after them.  Chava interjects that she gave her word to Angharad, and she, at least, is going to head out of town and back towards the tower as soon as she's finished her breakfast.

Chava heads to the stable, followed by Branwyn, who is a little confused as to why Chava wants to just start off like that.  Branwyn assumes that Angharad will be someplace around the town.  Chava shrugs, and just offers that Angharad didn't seem like the type to stay in town, and that it seemed reasonable to assume she'd meet them on the way.  Murphy has followed them, and seems to think this is a completely reasonable argument.

Meanwhile, Owain is trying to talk Kai into coming.  Kai insists that he'll come along only if they can stay on the road the whole time, even while camping.  Owain rolls his eyes, and they get ready to leave.  Brinna and Myrtle come to wave the group (that is, Owain) off, insisting that they have to come back soon.

Shortly after they leave town, the party is met on the road by Angharad.  She grumbles about them not being very prompt, and tells them to follow her, as she takes off directly into the woods.  Kai has a heated, and rather one-sided argument with Owain about the promise to stay on the road, but everyone else follows Angharad, and after a few moments, Kai follows, his fear of being left behind outweighing his fear of the Green Lady.

They travel through most of the day, stopping for food and rest occasionally, until Angharad calls a surprisingly early halt mid-afternoon.  When Kai questions her decision to stop, Angharad says it is unwise to challenge the tower at night, and that it will be best to come upon it at dawn or when the sun is high.  Kai isn't about to turn down anything that will keep him from the tower for a few more hours, so he happily agrees.  Branwyn attempts some hunting, but is unsuccessful.  The rest gather wood and make camp.  Eventually, they notice that Angharad is missing.  She returns shortly, with a large wolf at her side.  Owain steps back, nervous, and Kai trips and falls.  As he picks himself up, he thinks he hears the wolf laughing at him.  Murphy approaches the pair and asks Angharad if this is a friend of hers.  When Angharad answers the affirmative, Murphy smiles at the wolf and holds out his hand for it to sniff.  The wolf snorts, and says gruffly,

"What do you think I am?  A lap dog?"

Murphy is quite taken aback, though he doesn't really understand the Welsh, he is so surprised.  He stumbles over an apology to Angharad, who is very gracious, and tells 'Bleddyn' to be nice.  Murphy retreats, as Kai and Owain nearly burst laughing.  Branwyn, of course, undertakes the questioning of the wolf, asking for his name.

"She," the wolf nods towards Angharad, "calls me Bleddyn, but you may call me Anfri."

Branwyn is surprised, and asks if the wolf knows her.  The wolf seems disgruntled at the question, and clarifies that he meant you as in the 'lot of you' could call him Anfri.  Branwyn then inquires whether he is there to help them, and Anfri responds that he is with Angharad.  When Branwyn continues to pester, he adds that Angharad's business is his business, and when Branwyn jestingly notes that both Angharad and Anfri like to speak in riddles and not say anything, Anfri responds,

"Well, perhaps if I were as stupid as a human I would need everything spelled out for me in great detail.  As it is, I prefer not to stoop to your level." At which point, Anfri stalks to the other side of the campfire, and lays down.

Branwyn moves on to Angharad, and after some roundabout questioning receives a satisfactory answer as to the safety of having a wolf in camp. When no one else is paying attention, Anfri approaches Chava, inquiring whether she's been doing anything stupid lately.  She becomes indignant, and when he alludes to the tower incident, she dismisses it off-handedly.  Anfri sulks away, grumbling that a thank you would have been nice.

Owain and Murphy begin telling stories, both of which go over well.  Murphy tells the story of the Dishonest Priest, venting his frustration with the priest in Pentrebyrn, and Owain relates the story of Gorm the Bold.  Gorm the Bold seems to have a positive effect on Kai, who seems to be perking up.

Later in the evening, once Chava's protective circle is up, they begin discussing the tower.  Murphy wants to know if Angharad has a plan, and she reveals that she does not.  The tower has no doors, and the windows are on the second level.  She has never been inside.  This promts a question on the objectives of the 'challenge', to which Angharad responds that they should put it back to sleep or destroy it, either being acceptable.  When Kai wants to know how they can put it back to sleep without getting eaten, Angharad mentions that the tower should not yet be capable of consuming flesh, according to the history.  When Kai asks how they put the tower to sleep before, Angharad alludes to the records having been pilfered. Kai suggests going after the pilferers, but Angharad shoots it down as being not worth the time it would take, and decidedly more dangerous.  It becomes apparent that something more than Kai's carelessness may be behind the tower's awakening, and that something, or perhaps someone, is gathering darkness. Angharad may know who, but she declines to offer additional information on the subject.  Kai says, somewhat aside, that it would have been smarter to keep the records orally, as you couldn't steal things from a person's brain.  To which Angharad says, rather softly, "Yes, it would be nice to think so, wouldn't it?"

Eventually everyone goes to sleep.  Tomorrow will be a big day. 

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A Relatively Uneventful Weekend
in the village of Pentrebyrn

Murphy sleeps lightly, and rouses in the pre-dawn light, hearing the clatter of carts coming into town.  He decides to attend lauds at the chapel, and then returns to the Red Boar for breakfast.  Myrtle and her mother are already up and preparing food.  Murphy is served a steaming bowl of gruel and some cheese.  Myrtle is quite pleased when Murphy compliments it.

Saturday dawns chilly and overcast.  Kai wakes up in a panic, noticing that Murphy is missing.  He grabs Owain and drags him downstairs to search for the wayward monk, only to find him sitting quietly in the common room, enjoying an extra portion of cheese.  Owain promtly falls asleep again, with his head resting on the table, while Kai berates Murphy for making him worry.  

Chava is staying in the room today, to observe the Sabbath, though the bends the rules a little and spends some time making up a healing poultice from the herbs and such she has purchased.

Branwyn wanders downstairs, and she, Kai, and Murphy decide to go explore the market.  When Brinna comes over to serve them breakfast, she relays a message (to be delivered to the still snoozing Owain, to whom she gives an extra portion of cheese) that her father would be quite pleased to have Owain playing throughout the day, to encourage business from the farmers who have come into town. When they eventually wake Owain up, he decides he's not interested in shopping, and spends the day sitting in the doorway of the Red Boar, happily playing and telling stories.

Murphy has interest in obtaining some hyssop, for use in one of his rituals, and charges Kai with purchasing some for him.  Kai agrees, and wanders off to the blacksmith shop, where he purchases an axe, which he believes will be useful for cutting tent poles and such in the woods.  He then meanders towards the herbalist shop.

Branwyn and Murphy explore the market a little.  There are fewer people than one might expect on market day in a town so large, but it seems only the very close farmers have ventured into town, that is, those who don't have very far to travel to get there.  Wares include early spring vegetables, such as leeks, and dried root vegetables from the fall harvest, as well as animals of many varieties (dressed or live).  Many of the shops in town, or craftsmen who don't have their own shops during the week, have stalls in the market square today. Murphy attempts to inquire about the people of the woods, but this proves to be a sure conversation stopper.  The people, however, largely Welsh, have much to say on the subject of the bandits and Baron Falconcrest, ranging from mild approbation to outright fury.  When Murphy agrees that the Baron seems to be shirking his responsibilities, the conversation usually degrades into loud complaints about the Normans in general.

Branwyn is interested in being able to preserve skins to sell them to tanners, so she and Murphy eventually wander over to the tannery, which is on the generally downwind side of town, and far on the outskirts.  Branwyn purchases a chemical mix for hide preservation, and asks about Angharad.  The tanner offers that he doesn't see her much, but that she's a nice girl, if a little strange (implying that she may not be all there).  He does this while looking askance at Branwyn, who is a woman walking around in broad daylight in armor and trousers.

Kai, in the meantime, has had an interesting encounter on his way to the herbalist's shop.  He spots the green lady sitting by a small folding table, on which there are several bundles of herbs.  Curious, and figuring that whatever she's selling will be fresher than what he can get at the herbalist's, Kai approaches her.  He asks her questions, but gets little information in return, and indignant, he buys two bunches of hyssop and some willow bark.  Angharad seems reluctant to part with the willow bark, but makes an allusion to the tree she got it from being nice enough that she could probably get some more.  At this point Kai is quite weirded out, and hurries away with his bundles, though not before Angharad mentions (somewhat ominously), that she'll see him bright and early on Monday morning.  

When Branwyn and Murphy return to the market, Murphy buys a sturdier pair of sandles to replace his own, which are worn out.  Having exhausted their curiosity, and with little money in their pockets, the two rejoin Kai and head back to the tavern.  On the way, Kai stops to purchase a berry cake from the baker.

Owain is still playing, though he takes a break to chat with the others when they return. Kai is quite distressed, and wants to skip town, insisting on calling Angharad the 'evil green lady' and being rather a prick about it, though he eventually does give Owain the cake he bought for him.  Branwyn insists that Kai is being ridiculous, especially when Kai cites her being able to talk to trees as being a very scary and potentially dangerous thing, and goes so far as to blame Kai for waking up the tower.  Murphy, having been introduced to many strange things so far on his travels, is taking everything in stride, and sees no reason why they shouldn't help Angharad.  Owain agrees that it will be an interesting adventure, and Kai, pouting, is overruled.

An interesting thing happens to Branwyn during this conversation; for a moment, she remembers something, a fragment only.  She remembers being present while someone was chatting with a tree.  Unfortunately, the memory fades before she learns anything more.

Later in the afternoon, Murphy ducks upstairs to attempt some rituals, and has reasonable success.  He borrows a bucket from the inn to make a batch of holy water, and experiments with a process that allows him to make a non-slip grip on the hilt of his cheese knife.

In the evening, everyone gathers back in the common room for supper.  Due to the influx of people from the surrounding countryside, the place is rather full.  When Owain begins to play again after supper, though, they manage to clear enough space for dancing.  Branwyn invites Murphy to dance with her, and the monk consents, quoting that there is, after all, a time to dance.  

When things begin to quiet down, Owain tells a story about a princess trapped in a tower and guarded by a giant wolf.  Two friends slay the wolf and free the princess.  Everyone cheers, enjoying the tale, which prompts Murphy to tell a rather preachy parable about the miraculous rain bubble.  This is not the best audience for such a story, but everyone is in a good mood, and find the story entertaining.  Murphy decides to run with his luck and tell the story of the Song of Solomen.  Misinterpreting the tale, one of the young bachelors accosts Murphy for slighting Myrtle's honor.  Murphy protests, and several other young men join in; the challenge eventually devolves into an argument amongst them about whether Myrtle or Brinna is prettier.  Sensing impending trouble, Owain strikes up a soothing tune, and everyone settles down.

When Branwyn goes upstairs, she finds Chava has been hard at work.  Some of her alchemical apparatus is set up in the room, and she's apparently doing something.  Branwyn inquires about Chava's prayer stuff, to which Chava responds that it was just fine.  Branwyn then asks what Chava is doing, but gets little information.  Eventually, Branwyn goes to sleep.  She wakes in the night twice, once to sounds of irritated cursing, once to a shout of triumph, but just rolls over and goes back to sleep.

The following day is Sunday, so Murphy goes early to the church and spends the day there in services.  Meals at the inn today are cold bread and cheese, as the women don't cook on Sundays.  Owain spends the day in the room, practicing his lute where others aren't around to be critical.  Brinna and Myrtle bring him food at midday, giggling at the thought of catching the handsome young man in his skivvies.  Owain, however, is fully dressed when he answers the door.  Kai and Branwyn decide to spend the day hunting, so they venture into the woods.  Branwyn has luck early, but it takes Kai the better part of the day to get a deer.  They bring the meat back to the tavern, and trade it for some smoked meat and other travel-ready foodstuffs.  They also save and treat the skins and are able to sell them to the tanner.  Chava sleeps late, but in the afternoon cursing and the occasional concerning 'boom' can be heard coming from the girls' room.  Her magic attempts don't seem to be going so well.

 

 

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There's No Such Thing as a Gentle Nudge
from the woman known as Angharad Geli

Upon leaving the herbalist's shop, the group decides to split up.  Murphy, Branwyn, and Owain head off to visit the blacksmith, while Kai and Chava go back to the inn (Branwyn checks to make sure Chava feels safe alone with Kai, and Chava, of course, gives her a funny look in response).  As they part, Owain and Kai both spot a woman in a green cloak watching them from a nearby alley.  She appears to be giving Kai an irritated look, but when they look again, she is gone.  Kai is nervous, and has something of an argument with Chava before going back to see if he can follow the woman's trail.  He picks it up easily, but is concerned about leaving Chava alone, despite her assurances that she can take care of herself, thank you very much.  Eventually, having nothing else to do, they head back to the Red Boar Inn.

At the blacksmith, Murphy, Branwyn, and Owain find a very busy group of journeymen and apprentices.  The blacksmith himself is busy crafting something, and has little time to speak with them.  An apprentice sharpens their swords and knives for a penny, and tells them about how he's going to be the best blacksmith in the country when he's grown.  He is particularly curious about Branwyn, mentioning he's never met a woman who carried a sword before.

Towards evening, everyone gathers back at the inn, a little irritated at having gathered little to no information about the apparently strange goings on in the countryside.  Kai and Chava interrogated one of the innkeeper's daughters while they were waiting, but made little headway.  Owain decides to pass the time by playing some tunes on his lute, and the music he plays is so infectious that the townsfolk start dancing.  The innkeeper's older daughter informs him that if he will stay and play, he and his friends can have room and board for free. She seems to be quite smitten with him.

Murphy chats with the innkeeper (Chava accompanies him) and discovers that the herb woman is called Angharad Geli (of the Grove), but the innkeeper doesn't know where she lives or really anything else about her.  When Murphy inquires about druids, the innkeeper grumbles that it's their fault the woods aren't safe.  He has more to say about the bandits and Baron Falconcrest, decrying the former as a scourge on the countryside, and angry at the latter for not doing his duty and routing them out.  Chava is interested in what he has to say about Angharad, as she is interested in meeting this herb woman, but she soon heads up to the room she's sharing with Branwyn, as sundown marks the beginning of the Sabbath.

Owain continues to keep everyone entertained, and is practically set upon by Myrtle and Brinna (the innkeeper's daughters) when they're not busy keeping up with customers.  As they're both young and pretty, Owain has absolutely no objections, and is happy to entertain them with stories while he's not playing.

Murphy's conversation with Dennis (the innkeeper) moves on to his quest for a recipe for heather ale, which Dennis is most interested in.

Kai is enjoying himself until he spots the woman from earlier in the doorway.  He asks Branwyn to go check on Chava, while he keeps an eye on things down here.

 

Meanwhile, upstairs, Chava has finished with her candles and her prayers.  She tidies up, and is preparing for bed when a sudden sense of unease draws her attention to the open window.  Chava watches in growing concern as a shadow slips into the room.  It grows, taking the shape of a woman, not too tall, but not short either, with piercing, catlike green eyes, and dark brown hair.  Her skin is also brown, as one who spends a great deal of time outdoors, and she holds in one hand a carved oaken staff.  The woman's cloak is green.  Chava can't refrain from saying,

"Nice trick." 

"Oh, it's not a trick," The woman's eyes narrow.  She snaps at Chava, impatiently, "What are you doing here?"

"Stopped here to get out of the rain?" Chava looks at her visitor skeptically.

"Who sent you?"

"Um nobody?" Chava is beginning to get quite confused.

"And yet it has awakened." The woman glares, pacing, "It is awake and it is hungry."

"I have no idea what you're talking about.  Could use some clues over here."

"The tower." There is no doubt to which tower the woman is referring.

"Oh, that…" Chava winces, "Well, I didn't wake it up, but I did visit it.  I managed to get away."

"But not without help."

"Yeah," Chava frowns, "Thanks."

Irritated, the woman continues to pace, "That tower has been sealed for many centuries.  And now I am forced to conclude that a group of bumbling fools has accidentally managed to stumble upon it and awaken it."

"Yeah, that probably about sums it up," Chava admits, thinking of Kai.

"Very well." she purses her lips, "You broke it.  You will help me fix it."

"Sure," Chava nods, "We'll help."

"Good." 

"Who are you?"

The woman pauses in her pacing and turns to face Chava, "I am called Angharad Geli."

"Oh! I've been wanting to meet you, actually," Chava responds, eagerly.

"And why is that?" Angharad's eyes narrow, suspiciously.

"I hear you're good with herbs, thought maybe I could learn something from you." Chava shrugs.

"I see." Angharad relents, "When can we leave?"

"How about Monday?" Chava asks, considering the Monk won't want to travel on Sunday. 

Angharad looks displeased, but answers, "Very well."

At that moment, Branwyn falls through the door, and smiles up at the other women, "Uh, hello?"

Angharad gives Branwyn a penetrating look, and then says to Chava, "Monday." She turns to leave, but Branwyn calls after her.

"Do you recognize me?  Or this?" Branwyn holds out her scroll, "I don't remember anything."

Angharad places a hand on Branwyn's forehead, and says, cryptically, "No, no you don't." She holds out a hand peremptorially for the scroll, and Branwyn hands it over, stipulating that it's not to be opened.

"Do you know that sigil?" Branwyn asks, hopefully.

"Yes."

"What is it?"

"It is the mark of an Order of Druids."

"Are you part of the Order?  Is that for you?"

Angharad looks at Chava and Branwyn, and makes up her mind about something, "I cannot say.  I will ask for this again, and when I do, I expect to be permitted to open it." 

Then Angharad turns back to the window, and melts into the shadows.  Branwyn looks after her, impressed, "Wow, that's a neat trick."

The two women discuss the situation.

 

Downstairs, Murphy tells the story of his crossing the Irish sea, accompanied by music from Owain, and Owain tells some stories as well, in particular, declaring his own bravery in protecting Murphy from the bandits to Myrtle and Brinna. 

Kai is a little nervous that Branwyn hasn't come back, and ventures upstairs to make sure they're both all right.  He's a little appalled that Chava agreed to help the 'evil green lady', but is glad to see the girls are both pretty safe.  They kick him out shortly so that they can go to sleep.

Eventually everyone heads off to sleep, and Myrtle and Brinna argue with each other about which of them the handsome, charming, Owain likes best. 

 

View
There's Something Strange in the Woods
And it's a scary tower.

As soon as the wolf silhouette vanishes, it begins to rain, slowly at first, and then a downpour.  Luckily, thanks to Chava's magic circle, everyone is quite dry.  Owain and Murphy are quite concerned about this, and what it might mean in terms of strange creatures in the woods.  Chava makes some tea and tries to keep everyone calm without giving away that she put up the strange tent.  After some debate and haranguing, Kai and Owain attempt to build some shelters – however, as there are no branches of a useful size, this leads to an argument about the suitability of Owain's lute as a tent support.

Murphy decides to eat breakfast, and is sorely disappointed to find that they are out of cheese.  He grumbles and complains for a bit, then decides to change some of the bread to make it taste like cheese.  The change is successful, and the others are surprised to notice how happily Murphy is consuming his bread, after complaining so much about the cheese.

Chava had only intended the circle to last till dawn, so she takes time to reinforce it to last till noon, hoping that the rain will have stopped by then.  She next announces that she is going to take a nap.  While Chava is napping, Owain attempts to tell a story, but it is so bad Branwyn starts booing.  Murphy decides it's a good time to relate a parable, but he tells it all backwards, and nobody is listening anyway.

Chava's nap, of course, was only an excuse for practicing her astral projection.  Her spell is successful, and she steps out of herself and wanders into the woods, back in the direction of the place where Kai got spooked.  The world looks very different from this perspective, material objects have little meaning – the forest is a landscape of living things.  She herself is a being of shimmering substance.  The one thing that has come with her from the material world is her charmed necklace.  Traveling is also much faster.  As Chava approaches the tower, she begins to feel uncomfortable, nervous.  She approaches cautiously, and emerges into a barren place.  In the center is a tall, swirling cloud of black smoke, reaching from the ground to as far up as she can see.  It seems to emanate malevolence.  Chava turns to leave, but is caught, and begins to be drawn toward the tower.  Suddenly, a figure appears between her and the tower.  The wolf from her dream.  He stands, black as night, but gleaming with a strange, white brightness, and growls, "Go! Now!".  Chava grumbles that she is trying, and manages to break free from the vortex.  She snaps back into her body abruptly, and wakes with a pounding headache.

Distressed by her encounter, Chava goes to Matza, and gives her a hug.  Kai notices her distress, and inquires.  This leads to a conversation about the tower, and eventually Kai reveals most of what he knows about it.  Everyone is quite distressed at this point, and they make the decision to head into town, despite the rain.  Knowing there will be concern about crossing the magic circle, Chava walks through it, breaking the barrier, and dissipating the magic.  Rain immediately starts falling into the previously dry campsite.  This leads to Murphy's speculating about the nature of bubbles, and inspires him to start composing a story about the miraculous experience.

The group slogs through the mud and darkness for hours before they finally see the lights of the town.  They immediately find the inn, and are taken care of by the innkeeper's wife, who is quite distressed that they've been out in the rain and gotten so wet.  Chava mentions strange things in the woods, which leads the woman to stop chatting and go elsewhere.  Once they are dry and sitting by the fire, Owain tells some stories, and Murphy tells the story of Noah's Ark, both successfully.  Owain is quite pleased, because he finally managed to get through the tale of Gorm the Brave without people falling asleep.

Later, Chava goes in search of the innkeeper's wife, in order to inquire further about the woods.  After assuring Chava that yes, the town is perfectly safe, the woman answers some questions.  She isn't very talkative, and doesn't know anything about a tower, but she seems to be quite concerned about druids.

That night, Chava, Kai, and Branwyn dream about the tower.

In the morning, Chava brings up what she learned, and asks Murphy to go talk to the local priest to see if he knows anything.  Murphy, having eaten his fill of cheese, is more than happy to oblige, and Owain goes with him.  They go straight to the town's church.  The priest (a Norman), is less than helpful, dismissing all the stories about the woods as nothing more than primitive superstitious nonsense.  He is quite confused when they ask about the tower, assuring them that there are no towers on that road.  He and Murphy discuss the dangers of traveling, which the priest also pooh-poohs, insisting that the bandits are only interested in merchants, and wouldn't bother to attack a monk.  Murphy stays to say a few prayers in the chapel, and then he and Owain go out into the town. After leaving, Murphy tells Owain that he suspects the priest was hiding something.

It's still rainy, though better than yesterday, so there are few people out on the street, though most of the shops are open.  Owain and Murphy wander into an herbalist's shop, where they chat with the owner.  They learn that he grows some of the herbs, and purchases others from the merchants who come through (there is a port a little less than a week's journey north).  Much of what he has locally he purchases from local farmers, or from a woman who comes in about once a month with gleanings from the woods.  He can't remember her name, just remembers that she's from 'Geli' (the grove).  When Owain inquires about the woods, the merchant hints about people who have gone missing, and the general dangerous nature of woods in Wales anyway.  He also mentions Druids.  He is more than happy to supply them with some wolfsbane to keep werewolves away.  Owain is eager to purchase some, especially since Kai is so spooked, but the asking price is fairly high.  Murphy offers to bless some water in exchange, which the herbalist is more than happy to accept.  

Chava decides to go explore the town, and is, of course, followed by Kai and Branwyn, who don't think it's safe to let her wander about on her own.  They come into the herbalist's as the merchant is attempting to sell Owain daisies to keep away dragons.  Kai points this out, at which the herbalist claims his assistant has put things in the wrong box.  Chava purchases a number of useful healing herbs, for use in poultices and potions, at a good discount.  Murphy is curious about what she buys, as he is interested in what might be useful for healing.

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Of Dreams and Portents
Otherwise known as Kai flips out

Chava and Murphy elect to spend the following day exploring the monastery's library.  Owain and Branwyn join them, the former interested in exploring tomes of heraldy, and the latter interested in finding some clue to the seal on her scroll. 

Kai is not interested in the library, and spends the day in the woods, practicing his ranger skills. Towards evening, he begins to feel uncomfortable, as if he were being watched, but is unable to determine the location or nature of the observer.  As the sun begins to set, Kai hurries back to the monastery and safety.

Murphy finds a good deal on church sanctioned healing rituals, which he is interested in putting to use.  Chava is also researching healing, and finds a reference to holy water being used in purification.  Later she asks Murphy to sanctify some water for her, and he is more than happy to oblige.

Owain has little luck, as the monks do not keep very meticulous heraldic records.  Branwyn, on the other hand, manages to catch the attention of one of the librarians, and is directed to a symbol very like the one on her scroll; an oak tree with the equilateral triangles replaced with skulls.  It is only a small section in an obscure reference on druidic orders.

That evening, at supper, Owain attempts to tell his new version of the tale of Gorm the Bold, but unfortunately it doesn't go over very well.

 Once all have gone to sleep, Chava, Owain, and Kai, all find themselves in a dream.  They wander, endlessly, through halls of rough-cut grey stone.  There are no windows, and no way out. They know only that they are searching, for someone or something, and that time is important.  At last they come to a standstill as a huge wolf, as large as a mountain pony, appears in front of them.  He stands there, looking at them, his coat black as the night sky, and the dream fades as the bells for Matins ring.  Kai wakes, nervous and frightened, and moves to the window, where he sits, sleepless, for the rest of the evening.  Owain also wakes, but immediately falls back asleep, to less interesting dreams.  Chava gets out of the bed she is sharing with Branwyn and sets up a circle of protection around them before going back to sleep.

In the morning Owain pesters Kai about why he is so tired, and relates the story of his dream, mentioning the halls, and the huge black creature that 'jumped out at him'.  Kai is very nervous about the similarity to his own dream, but says nothing.  Chava is also intrigued, but keeps her own council.  

Murphy, meanwhile, has been with the monks at prayer.  He catches a few of them and inquires about the village ahead.  He learns it is fairly large, with an inn or two, and a blacksmith of good repute.  It is under the jurisdiction of the Baron Terrence Falconcrest, who seems to be somewhat unusual in that he has no Welsh knights governing smaller portions of his territory.  The townspeople are currently quite displeased with him, as they have requested his aid in dealing with the increasingly dangerous group of bandits in the countryside, and he has done nothing.  Most of this conversation is in Latin, as Murphy is having a hard time following the Welsh, so the rest are not privy to it.

The adventurers are soon off, traveling along the road towards Pentrebyrn, which is a good day and a half trip from the monastery. Owain entertains the group with an uproarious new song about the time when Kai broke his wrist practicing swordplay. Even the horses seem to enjoy it. Around noon Kai spots smoke in the distance, and heads off to investigate.  The rest stay on the road.  After some turning around, Kai finds his way to a clearing in the woods, at the center of which is a tall, dark tower, made from strangely smooth stone.  Curious, he walks around it, careful not to travel sunwise, in case it is a thing of the Fae.  There is no door, but there are windows higher up.  Kai touches the tower, and is immediately overwhelmed with a series of visions.  He sees the making of the tower, it was grown by magic from the earth, not cut as stones and mortared together.  The tower stands as a beacon until a shadow comes and devours it, tainting the tower and turning it black.  Overwhelmed with a sense of terror, Kai snatches back his hand and hurries back to his companions.  He refuses to tell them anything, only insisting that they travel faster.  When Branwyn is obnoxious about asking what happened, Chava uses magic to make her quiet.  Eventually Chava and Owain can't keep up with the faster pace, and Kai insists that they ride the horses so that they can keep moving. Concerned for his well being, Murphy joins Kai at the front of the march and tries to distract him from whatever it is that's bothering him with a story. Unfortunately, the story Murphy chooses (the parable of a foolish man who began building a tower without first calculating the cost, and who was then ridiculed when unable to finish) seems to aggitate Kai even more.

Despite Kai's forced march, they are not able to reach the town by nightfall, and must make camp, eating dry journey bread, and what is left of Murphy's cheese.  Chava takes the first watch, and casts a magic circle around the camp.  Branwyn and Kai are both on the last watch of the night, and both of them see, in the mist, the silhouette of a large wolf, which promptly disappears.

 

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Three Become Five
Winning honor and glory... we think

We enter this episode with Chava, who is traveling from town to town.  Her horse, Matza, carries her alchemical supplies.  She is on her way to the village of Pentrebyrn, when she is stopped by a gruff-looking man who appears before her on the road.  He takes the bridle of her horse, and after some discussion, and a few not too subtle threats, she accompanies the man and his companions into the woods.  Some ways from the road, they come upon the bandit camp, and Chava is promptly tied to a nearby tree.  

There is another woman nearby, also tied to a tree.  She has a fierce headache, and cannot recall who she is or what she is doing here.  Upon waking, she immediately hollers questions at the bandits, who then attempt to gag her.  She viciously kicks the first one who tries, and one of the next two who attempt to grab her legs and tie them.  After her legs are tied, she is gagged.

As chance would have it, our trio from before (Kai, Owain, and Murphy) is traveling the same road.  As they pass the spot where Chava went off the road, Owain gets a strange sense that someone is in danger just off the road.  He convinces the others to come with him to investigate.  Kai, of course, jumps at the opportunity, and Murphy hangs back.  When they near the camp, Owain is the first to hear the bandits, and cautions the others.  Kai ducks into the underbrush and sneaks off to investigate.  Murphy hides behind a tree and prays.

Kai takes stock of the situation and uses his belt knife to cut the ropes holding Chava.  Unfortunately he is spotted, and one of the bandits raises the alarm, rushing to attack him at the same time.  Another of the bandits, not a very good lookout, spots Owain, and charges at him, missing several times, while Owain just looks at him, and blocks occasionally with his blade.  Kai's attacker misses, and Kai responds by slicing the man open with his sword.  At Chava's request he tosses her his knife, and turns to face the bandit leader, a large, dark-haired man with a full beard, who is bearing down on him.  The two exchange several blows while Chava frees the other woman, legs first.  One of the other bandits attempts to restrain Chava, but misses, and ducks out of the way as soon as the other woman's legs are free.  Once Chava has finished cutting the ropes, the woman takes the knife and approaches the two remaining bandits in a threatening manner.  As both of these are the ones she kicked before, they promptly turn tail and run.  The bandit leader, seeing his followers leave, and himself outnumbered, also flees.  Owain informs his incompetent attacker that his companions are gone, and the man surrenders.

Matza appears, followed by two other horses. Introductions follow, where Chava attempts to get everyone to write their names in her book, and Murphy instead writes 'cheese' and hands her some.  The nameless woman questions the prisoner, but is only able to determine that she was unconscious when they came upon her.  Following some debate, they decide to call her Branwyn.  Branwyn recognizes the sheild carried by one of the horses as her own, and finds some other items she recognizes, including her armor, sword, and bow, as well as a fine gold chain and a sealed scroll.  The sheild is blank, so it carries no clues to her identity, but the seal on the scroll carries a strange mark; an oak tree and three equilateral triangles.  Owain examines it carefully, but the insignia is not familiar to him.  

Leaving the prisoner tied to a tree, the five now return to the road.  Chava is pleased to have some armed company, considering her recent encounter, and everyone insists that Branwyn must come with them.  After traveling for a bit the travelers make camp.  Branwyn sets out snares for rabbits, and Kai does some hunting.  Chava works on spells while Murphy and Owain gather wood and get a fire going.  She has one success, and manages to set the unclaimed horse staggering around drunkenly for about ten minutes.  This raises some concern with the others, and Branwyn grabs the saddlebags and dumps them on the ground.  They contain mostly journey food, hard bread, cheese, and a wineskin, and some money.  There follows a little debate between Branwyn and Chava as to who owns the horse and the contents of the saddlebags.  Chava hands Murphy the cheese, and is happy to share the food.  Kai snatches up the money and receives an indignant lecture from Owain about stealing, to which he pays little heed.  Everyone goes to sleep a little disgruntled, with Kai and Chava taking the first watch.  Chava thinks she sees something in the shadows, but when she calls attention to it, it's gone.  Murphy also thinks he sees something on the following watch, but when he wakes Kai it disappears.  Owain takes the third watch and sees nothing.  

Travel in the morning brings the group to the monastery at Betwys Pentrebyrn (a day or so journey from the town proper) by nightfall.  The monks welcome them, and Owain gives a stirring retelling of the daring rescue of the two ladies.  The story is greeted with much pleasure, although the monks caution Owain that the bandit group has been preying on the countryside for some time, and is quite large.  The party was lucky to have happened upon such a small band, and the leader, Huw of the Beard, may seek vengeance in order to save face.  Murphy follows by telling the monks the story of St. Patrick, as he learned it in Ireland.  As he tells it in Latin, the rest of his friends have to make do with a translation, which is not nearly as good. 

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The Very Beginning
Kai ap Rhys and his friend Owain ap Cwm set out to find adventure and win honor.

Kai is the youngest son of the knight Rhys of Esgair Ddu, a small holding in the mountains of northern Wales.  Because the land is insufficient to divide among all of his children, Sir Rhys has declared that the son who brings the greatest honor to the family will earn the title Lord of Esgair Ddu, and all the benefits that accompany it.  Kai has always been coddled by his mother and sisters, and is loath to leave home, but after a stern lecture from his father about filial responsibility, and realizing that his brothers have been out in the world making their names for years, Kai decides to set out to earn his honor.  His childhood friend, Owain, who has trained as a minstrel, having the itchy feet that so often accompany such a profession, decides to accompany Kai.  In a fit of melodramatic passion, Kai declares that he will no longer be known as Kai, but rather as Dienw (nameless), until he has proven himself worthy.

Kai ap Rhys is tall and gangly, more wirey than strong.  Like the rest of his family he has dark eyes, but unlike his siblings and parents his hair is bright blonde, nearly white.  He carries a sword, and wears ringmail armor.  His family ring and cup, all his inheritance if he cannot win the land, he keeps safely tucked away.

Owain ap Cwm (of the Valley) was born in a small hamlet tucked away in a valley near the manor.  His father worked the land for Lord Rhys, planting, tending, and harvesting.  Owain's mother died giving birth to his younger sister, Cerys.  Without her watchful eye, Owain (and often Cerys too) ran wild.  Always playful and mischievous, Owain constantly snuck away to play with his friend, Kai, at the manor.  There, from passing minstrals and bards, Owain learned some stories and basic skills on the lute. Owain is shorter than Kai, and scrawny, with shaggy brown hair and merry blue eyes.

After several days of traveling, the two adventurers come upon a town large enough to support a tavern.  Eager for the promise of comfortable beds and warm food not cooked by Kai, the two immediately enter and ask for supper.  The innkeeper notices Owain's lute, and being a clever businessman, requests that the minstrel entertain them.  Owain obliges, telling the story of Llewelyn the Brave with such dramatic expression that the entire room is captivated.  When the innkeeper promises not to charge for the meal or accomodations if Owain will tell a second story, Owain is happy to spin another yarn.  This time he tells of Gorm the Bold, who is less well recognized, and the listeners quickly lose interest.

While eating, Owain and Kai had noticed a foreign monk sitting nearby.  After much banter, Kai is convinced to go ask the monk if he is on an adventure, and if they can come along.  What follows is an interesting exchange of miscommunication, where Murphy thinks the others want more cheese, and where they think he's offering them cheese in exchange for their leftover bread.  The two adventurers go to sleep thinking they've made a contract with Murphy to come with him on his adventure.

Murphy O'Shenanigan has come from Ireland to bring the true gospel to the heathens in Britain.  He has traveled for a short time in Wales,  going from monastery to monastery.  One of the incentives for his coming so far was a fondness for good cheese, and an interest in the making of heather ale.  Unfortunately, he is hindered by a lack of understanding of the Welsh language.  Murphy is a little short and stocky, with a curly head of red hair and bright green eyes.

The following day, Owain and Kai accompany Murphy on his way to the nearby monastery.  As both Murphy and the monks speak latin, some degree of translation is accomplished, and Murphy opts to stay for some formal training in the fundamentals of the Welsh language.  While he does this, Kai and Owain work in the garden and pursue their own skills.  Owain exchanges stories with the monks, and plays for them.  Kai practices his ranger skills in the nearby woods, and eventually talks Owain into practicing swordplay with him.  After a few smacks back and forth (luckily with wooden swords, as Owain has no armor), Kai lands a good hit and accidentally breaks Owain's wrist.  One of the monks is able to heal Owain, but the travelers decide to stay out the rest of the week at the monastery, which is good because Murphy is having a hard time with his Welsh.

Kai and Owain, having learned that the monk is actually on a mission trip, and not an adventure, have an animated discussion, and eventually decide that they might have a good adventure after all, as traveling can be perilous.  So, when Murphy sets out on his way to the next abby, the two accompany him.

After traveling for part of the day, they come upon a ford in a stream, next to which is a pavilion.  A knight emerges, announcing himself as Bran ap Gwendyr, and speaks a challenge to Kai.  Kai accepts, declaring himself to be Dienw ap Rhys, but is quickly knocked unconscious with a sharp blow to the head.  The knight is concerned for the young man's health, and orders his squire to splash water on Kai.  When Kai rouses, Sir Bran mentions he and his squire are traveling to the tourney in Pensarn, which will be held on the first of May (it is now early April).  He offers that the group may travel with him.  After much discussion, the band decides to continue on to the monastery, and follow to the tournament later. 

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