Jewelspider Chronicles 3

Written By: Stephen Dove

Session 3  (6/10/2013)

Breakfast

The day got to a late start, with the company sleeping in after their adventures in Fenring Forest. Carroe and Malvol spoke together in low tones; each obviously bothered by the night’s events. They also talked of Venforth Abbey, and Carroe warned that the Bishop of Clyster might have ears there. As they spoke, Carroe noted a fine tracery of lines etched into Malvol’s hands, like some script.

Meanwhile, Jasper, hair all tussled, was perturbed to discover that the boy could hear the Wolf’s voice, though the wolf assured him that this was only because it allowed him to. Jasper scowled.

Malvol kicked the sleeping Osric in the head and the Harbinger awoke rudely screaming! ‘Wash the pots boy!’ said the grizzled Knight and Osric uncharacteristically obeyed, though Maelee shouted at him to stop. The wolf, as if to show its distain, drank from the lake and the pissed in the water contemptuously.

Osric washed the pots with ill grace but when he emerged, Malvol threw him in crying ‘You need a wash too boy!’ Osric was not happy and began whining again.

Danee approached Lady Maelee and gave her Ariel, cautioning her that she should offer prayers to the Most High on its blade, to hold off the power of the Fey. She stooped under a rowan tree, and took something from the grass, then kneeled and said her prayers, before moving off to wash. The wolf stood guard over Maelee as she bathed in a small pool formed by a brook that ran into the lake. The water was icy cold and she shivered until Danee threw more wood on the fire and she was able to warm herself.

Soon the camp was broken, the tents stowed on the cart and daisy backed into the traces. The company took up their usual positions as the cart made its way slowly back to the causeway.

Everywhere the evidence of spring was evident; buds bursting into life and the first signs of spring flowers dotting the turf and verges.

Carroe rode ahead on the horse the company had rescued from the lepers. He trotted along the muddy road until he came upon a chapman, heading west and labouring under the weight of his pack. The chapman warned Carroe that Clyster had closed its gates, for the pestilence was in Candleford and he was headed north. Carroe thanked him and spurred his mount.

Carroe rode back and informed the company and there were many worried faces as they moved onwards. The company argued where to go, Malvol declaring that ‘Those of faith have nothing to fear from the pestilence.’ but Danee was more pragmatic and Maelee was also for avoiding the eastern ports. They moved on grimly towards Karicksbridge, arguing.

Later, to lighten the mood, Malvol took it into his head to teach Jasper to ride and the gangly mage hared off down the road, and was thrown into a holly bush. The wolf looked back at Malvol accusingly, though there was also some amusement written across its feral face.

Karicksbridge

Garbed like a group of religious players, the company rumbled onto the hills above Karicksbridge; a small village centred upon a huge inn known as the White Stag, which stood hard by the stone bridge across the Karicksbrook.

A Knight rode up, his visor down and demanded they submit themselves to questioning; asking if they ‘…had come from any place that has the pestilence?’ He was rude, seeking signs of pestilence but also, finding none, taking the time to proposition Maelee. Malvol was annoyed and chastised the Knight, also refusing to hunt with him, so the Knight rode off in a sulk. His horse suddenly threw him, when he was a hundred yards away and suddenly the boy’s eyes twinkled with mischief.

As they came across the bridge, Maelee reminded them all of ‘The prelate of Karicksbridge’; a song from her time that mocked the priest of this village for making his flock take down his church stone by stone and then rebuild it five miles away, for he did not like the insects that infest Karicksbridge in Summer.

The others had not ever heard the song, though the tale was well known and all laughed, save Malvol; the knight seemed suddenly sad at the sight of Karicksbridge.

Malvol took himself off to the Hunters’ Inn on the northern edge of the village, whilst the others guided the cart into a maelstrom of wagons from a merchants’ caravan assembling outside the White Stag. Most of the drivers and soldiers were neglecting their tasks, taking time to bait two men in the stocks, and the crowd in front of them had Maelee and Osric’s fingers twitching. Carroe scanned the crowd, seeking for any cutpurses.

Sadness washed over Malvol as he walked through the village, for long ago, his cousin Tancred, had brought him to this village as the prelude to a hunting trip and it was one of the last happy memories he had left of any of his family. He scowled and spoke to a feral, gap-toothed woman who was skinning rabbits outside the Hunters’ Inn.

“Good Morrow old woman; How now?”

“Well enough Good Sir!” she smiled, clearly unused to any speech aside from abuse. She leered at Malvol and he, discomfited, went swiftly inside.

He bought salt and potatoes, talking to the Innkeeper. Yet his heart sank as he took in the sights and sounds of the inn that took him back more than thirty years, to his boyhood. His reverie was interrupted outside by the old woman, who propositioned him and he demurred. She hacked the member off the rabbit she was skinning, savagely and her face creased into a frown.

Malvol made to return to his companions, but saw some draft horses that he recognised. He realised they had belonged to the caravan master they’d travelled with from Saxton, and so enquired as to their price, for the beasts were plainly winded and needed food after a full night and day of travelling. He bantered to the horse trader to raise his spirits, and enjoyed the cut and thrust of the negotiation, but left, promising to return as he heard a howl of rage from the crowd near his friends.

A cut purse

Maelee and Osric took advantage of the crowd to try and cut a purse or two. Carroe spoke to the beadle and had him bring a brazier of coals. He asked the men in the stocks, both of whom had had their hands removed for theft, if they repented. One man moaned that he did and Carroe cauterised his wounds with a red hot poker. The second spat in disgust, and was refused the cleansing flame.

Meanwhile Maelee spotted a ‘fat bird’, a merchant with a bulging purse, and Osric glided in and slashed it, rushing off before he was marked. The merchant gave a howl a moment later and his two men at arms laid hands on a villain and began beating him.

Malvol burst into the crowd and laid out one of the soldiers with a massive punch. The merchant roared in anger and ordered the beadle to arrest Malvol, but Carroe intervened, stating that the merchant was guilty of common assault without proof, and proceeded to fine him for his crime. The merchant was livid and the beadle was also not pleased, but neither Carroe nor Malvol realised their own friends were responsible. In the end, Carroe was forced to pay the merchant for the money he’d lost, but the merchant gave the Carroe a metal shield with his company’s badge on, for his ‘…speed in bringing this matter to a satisfactory conclusion. You may call upon my manor in Erincester for lodging at your convenience; use the side entrance please!’

The Inn

Maelee had already secured lodging for the company, bargaining with the owner, who proved to be a Varni woman by the name of Esmeralda. Maelee promised to play at the inn that night, in exchange for lodgings for herself and her companions; though their accommodation proved to be the barn alas. Emeralda also cautioned Maelee to ‘…mark the wolf’, so that the hunters would not slay him.

Later, behind the inn, Maelee and Osric met and divided up the spoils of their skulduggery, which proved to be 140 florins. They argued over the division, Osric claiming that he warranted more, but Maelee convinced him that a more equal division was equitable.

Carroe questioned the company when the ruckus was over; clearly implying that he believed Osric might have had something to do with the knavery. Luckily, Maelee vouched for Osric and Carroe was ‘satisfied’ though he looked annoyed. The wolf glared at him as if he was stupid.

The company bathed and bedded down; Danee hid the boy in the cart, staying in the barn with him to avoid notice. He asked Carroe to find an apothecary and buy a tincture to dose the boy with. Maelee washed and readied herself for the evening’s playing.

Malvol told the others that he would seek the Church this night, though once he left the Stag, his feet carried him to the Hunters’ Inn, almost empty as word of a Jongleur at the Stag had spread throughout the village. He ordered a copious jug of ale and sat by the fire, lost in thought; as even Wellan, the Tavern-keep of Hunters’ Inn left for the Stag ‘…for I’ve a hankering for a tale myself.’ Before he left, he warned Malvol of the ‘….feral old woman who lives outside.’ Malvol resolved to keep a club handy, having already seen her wanton nature.

Carroe bathed as Maelee began her performance; he then left, going out into the night to find an apothecary. He asked the beadle the way and was directed to cottage on the village’s very edge. There he bought a sleeping draught of Skullcap and Valerian, though Edgar would not sell it before seeing Carroe’s ring.

Maelee’s performance was a good one and the inn rocked as the patrons banged on the tables in time to Maelee’s song. The taproom was full to bursting; villagers having travelled long distances to hear songs and tales again, after a long winter. She favoured them with ‘The prelate of Karicksbridge.’ and the patrons, now lubricated by strong drink, roared their approval.

Jasper was drinking in the taproom with the wolf; both by now deep in their cups, and oblivious to the music. Osric sidled up to him and asked what time they’d leave in the morning. Jasper was not in the mood for leadership and the wolf, half-drunk himself, chastised him. Osric was annoyed and try to find Malvol, but couldn’t, and so told Carroe that he had business in the morning, and not to leave without him and he retired to the barn. Danee and the boy were already asleep and so Osric bantered with an old Camelot, who was sleeping in the hay loft, before falling into slumber himself.

Esmeralda

Carroe sought out the innkeeper, intrigued by her and her story. He warned Esmeralda of the Bishop of Clyster’s policy of burning her kind, blaming them for the pestilence, and she grew angry but offered Carroe a strange, spicy bread. Carroe then slumped to the floor and Esmeralda smiled……

Several hours later Maelee was awoken; for Esmeralda had fetched her explaining that Carroe was ‘….unused to the strong drink of my people.’ So Maelee took him to her room, feeling like a tavern-keep, for she had already escorted a drunken Jasper and his wolf to the barn. Carroe did not awaken for several hours and when he did, his head felt as if it were stuffed full of wool, though that did not stop him searching through his possessions, to see if anything had been stolen. Esmeralda arrived a little later with breakfast but Carroe eyed her suspiciously. Maelee, however, was all smiles and thanked the old Varni.

Meanwhile, at first light; Osric made for the apothecary and pretended to be the errand boy. Maelee had made the seal of a famous doctor from her time, out of cork, and forged a letter for him, whilst Carroe washed and checked his things.

The apothecary was suspicious and checked his register; but luckily someone had obviously passed the seal down the family, as the sigil was still registered to a physik.

The apothecary was unguarded, thinking the man before him a peasant, and Osric was able to see the ingredients of the sleeping draught and also those of a healing tincture.

Malvol awoke in the tavern to find his jug of cider empty and his belly and breath rank with drink. He saw the tavern-keep had just arrived home himself and bade him good morning, before returning to his companions.

Malvol then dunked Jasper in the horse trough for the mage had ‘ale eyes’ and looked the worse for wear; he was soon spluttering, but back to his old self.

Maelee and Malvol then garbed themselves in their finery and attempted to buy a draught horse from the horse trader at a fair price. Malvol used Jasper to ‘test’ the horses; for animals had little love for the apprentice. Maelee mentioned her relatives at Corvallin Castle and the trader, eager to get in the Lord De Toyne’s good graces, gave them an excellent price for ‘Magnus; the best draught horse in Albion.’

Osric returned to the Company triumphant from his trip to the apothecary, boasting of his prowess, and was summarily ignored, as everyone packed up their belongings and loaded the cart. Daisy was now tethered to the back of the wagon, as Magus took pride of place betwixt the traces.

The road again

Once the horses were watered and fed, the Company took to the muddy road; at first walking the horses, to warm their legs gradually. The wolf haunted their flanks; but was uncharacteristically silent, its eyes still bloodshot from last night’s ale.

After three hours, they came to the crossroads, though already the sun was westering. Three crow pecked corpses swung eerily from a gibbet set at the crossroads. Maelee jumped down from the cart and took the left hand of one, much to Osric’s disgust. She explained it away as ‘…a ward against the Fey.’

The Company turned south onto a properly made road, and journey on towards Vennforth Abbey. As they did so, Osric descried a camp on the east road to Clyster, and Malvol suggested that these might be soldiers, to prevent any approaching Candleford. Or perhaps also to prevent them leaving.

As the shadows lengthened, the Company pulled the cart into a side track that ran into a copse of woods was spread about the flanks of a shallow hill, like a green cloak. Danee saw some markings, and told the others to be wary ‘…for this is Abbey land; probably a hunt chase for the prelates of Vennforth Abbey.’

They found a dell scooped out of the side of the hill, and made their camp there; Danee taking charge of the fire, as Carroe went off into the night to hunt. They were well pleased when Carroe came back with a scrawny deer, both for the meat and because he told them that the fire couldn’t be seen from the road nor track.

Once they had eaten, the Company retired save those who stood guard; Danee and Maelee took first watch. They took up position at the high end of the dell, Carroe with a hand on his crossbow.

A storm burst over the Hourla Hills, far to the north and Maelee fell into reveries of her childhood; for her Father’s manor had stood hard by the edge of those hills and she had often watched the lightning washing her home in its glare. Blinking back tears, she turned and listened as Carroe told her foolish tales of the hills.

The storm broke over them then and a flash of lightning outlined a bent figure coming over the hill. Carroe spoke to him, and as he approached they saw that he was a monk. Brother Oswin proved to be a Cornumbrian from St Columba’s Monastery; travelling to Vennforth to copy some books. After some strong drink the garrulous old man told them that his journey was a penance because of his ‘…love of grape juice.’ He also told them of his past, as a Crusader who had taken his young brother to war and who had returned alone and with hi faith in tatters’. He asked them about each of their sleeping companions and it emerged that Maelee had spent some time in a Nunnery.

Before he turned in for the night, Oswin ground some ink and painted a few letters in a beautifully illuminated manuscript before pitching his tent and climbing into his bedroll, talking endlessly the whole time.

Danee took next watch and it began to rain. He cursed Jasper, who had neglected to put the wood under cover. Then sudden shrieks awoke the whole camp, for Malvol, his eyes still closed, was rolling around in his tent screaming ‘They’re burning! I have to save them! They’re all burning!’

Oswin awoke and cradled the sleeping Knight, telling him softly that ‘…tis but a dream Brother; like all our yesterdays, just ash now. All you have left now is regret; like most who have known war.’ It took a long time for the Malvol to come back to himself but slowly the camp settled back down, though the Knight refused to discuss his dream.

In the third watch of the night, Jasper took up guard and positioned himself by the fire. He felt a sudden connection and stared into the fire; his Master’s face appearing in the flames. ‘Where are you Jasper and how goes the journey?’ Jasper told him of their adventures so far, and skirted Ulric’s questions about ‘..a change I sense in our bond.’ and also neglected to mention the wolf.

Once his master was gone, Jasper decided to cast a horoscope and obtained a surprising result; that a person of power was expecting them at the Abbey, and that the choice they made would be a fork in the road of their destinies. He then went up onto the heights and looked down into the wood, neglecting the fire.

Vennforth Abbey

The next morning was cold and cheerless. Danee chastised Jasper for letting the fire go out whilst Carroe made Osric wash as the rain lashed down on them all. Malvol was last up, uncharacteristically, and his eyes betrayed a haunted look that forestalled any questions. Osric foolishly tried to bait him and for a moment, his eyes were full of murder but Danee calmed him. Oswin took his leave of the Company then; pleading that ‘…I’ll end up in the penitential cell if I don’t hurry on.’

They broke their fast, and Jasper now told them of his horoscope. Maelee suggested that Danee should take the boy onwards to Newham Ley, for she did not want the boy near the Abbey; and all agreed. Malvol also cautioned Jasper that he would feel strange in the Abbey and the Sorceror raised an eyebrow and look worried. Malvol warned him that magic ‘…will be…difficult within the pale.’ and cautioned him not to try.

Danee and the boy left on the cart, whilst the company trudged along the road, with Daisy to carry their belongings. The wolf also took its leave of them, telling Jasper through their shared mind, that he would await his master on the other side of the Abbey. Maelee and Carroe conferred and she drew aside and donned a black, shapeless robe, also putting on a blindfold so that Carroe had to lead her.

As they approached, a monk came out to greet them, and Carroe told him they were pilgrims, come to the Abbey to venerate St Venn. He showed the monk his ring, and all caught a glimpse of an ornate seal with a Bishop’s Mitre as part of the device. The monk became all obsequious and took them in through the postern gate.

Once they had been taken to the dormitory, Malvol called them all together and warned them to be wary, ‘…for these monks will be fervent and will watch us carefully.’ He also drew Carroe aside and admonished him for ‘…leaving a blazing trail that a blind man could follow, by brandishing that ring you bear about, as if it were a mere trinket. Clyster might have eyes and ears here.’

The company went straight into the main chapel and approached the altar; Jasper had to be helped for he suddenly felt weak and pale. Malvol whispered to him that this was because ‘….the holy presence is inimical to all things eldritch. Carroe gasped, as Maelee’s shadow returned as soon as they stood in the presence of the Most High; and none marked that Osric also saw the same at his feet.

Carroe withdrew and sought food in the refectory and met the Brother Hospitaller, who Carroe then badgered for an audience for with the Prior. The Hospitaller agreed to present them, and lead Carroe and the blindfolded Maelee to the prelate.

The Prior was scornful of Carroe’s story; that Maelee was a prophet and divinely touched healer. Carroe asked for access to their books ‘…..so that I might make sure that this woman is not, in fact, Fey touched.’ The Prior was unimpressed until Carroe mentioned his close relationship with Beckett, Archbishop of Cantorbridge, and how this might be turned to reduce the Abbey’s taxes to the Archbishop. The Prior told them that none were ever allowed into the main library; but that books might be brought out for them to see. He also reminded Carroe to ‘…pass his regards to the Archbishop.’ and he was in no doubt of the Prior’s meaning.

A few moments later Carroe was lead to a narrow scriptorium, set with a work-bench and told to ring a bell to summon the Brother Librarian. Carroe rang the bell and asked for books on the Fey and also records on the past instances of the pestilence.

As his friends prayed and Malvol instructed a weak and shaking Jasper on ‘holy virtue’ before the altar, Carroe poured over the books and sought the source of the first pestilence.

It was long into the afternoon ere he found that, although the first pestilence started at the ports in 789 and slowly moved inland, there was also an isolated outbreak near Erincester; a woodcutter called ‘Honoric the hewer’ from Montombre’s fief, brought the plague there, though he had never been south; Carroe began to suspect the Fey.

Later, when asking for more books about Fey; the librarian mentioned that a monk, who trained the famous monastery of Felico Sanctis in Algandy, lived at Crountal Abbey and was an authority on the Fey in all their forms. Carroe filed this away.

He then began trying to help Maelee; who wanted a way to understand what had happened to her and how she might avoid, ever again, being caught in a Fay net. A monk brought them food and they realised they had little time before evening curtailed their study and so they redoubled their efforts. Yet they found only a strange book in Visic; and Carroe could not read it, and so copied it down, hoping Danee could help.

After evening prayers, Osric saw a private gallery above the area before the Altar and heard someone up there. He then skulked around and became convinced that someone of high birth was staying at the Abbey; a monk took a plate of very fine foods to an area of the Abbey that was closed to visitors. He found a way in and saw some very fine purple velvet curtains and a large number of books but was too afraid to continue. When he told his companions in the refectory that night, Malvol also volunteered that there was ‘…the finest warhorse I have ever seen in the Abbey stables.’

The Company became convinced that the Abbey was holding some kind of prisoner and resolved to find out who it was. Jasper warned them all to be careful because ‘…we haven’t found out who was expecting us yet.’

The Prisoner

Once they were locked in the visitors’ dormitory that night, they all hastily dressed and armed themselves with the few weapons the monks had not taken from them. Maelee then picked the lock and they found themselves in the gloomy cloister. With Osric leading the way, they made their through the darkness; to the west side of the quadrangle and Maelee’s skills were again required. Once they were through the door, Jasper and Maelee returned to the dormitory, as Malvol and Carroe marched in and Osric hid behind the curtain, listening.

The tall man before them was dressed in Cloth-of-gold and Ermine and sat at the head of a long table, beside a huge fire. The room was sumptuously appointed; costly hangings lining every wall and thick carpets upon the floor. As the two stood nonplussed, the man looked up and said ‘Ah Master Carroe! I was expecting you.’

Carroe and Malvol came back to themselves and asked the man his name and he told them he was ‘…..Edmund, Earl of Clystershire and the True King of Albion.’ He then went on to outline how he had been held as a prisoner since Hadric’s father, who had usurped the throne, had captured him when he returned from the continent, two years ago. He had re-entered Albion in secret, hoping to raise an army to reclaim his rightful Kingdom, but had been taken by Hadric’s spies before most of his supporters even knew he was in the country. He also ruefully admitted that Hadric also had his daughter in custody and so he dared not escape; hence the reason for his less than secure place of captivity. The earl seemed to believe that the Archbishop had sent Carroe to aid him, for he had sent secret messages to him many times and the Archbishop had replied, promising to send ‘…his man Carroe.’ though the prelate’s last message was months ago. He was enraged to discover that Carroe was here by chance, dismissing them once he’d heard this and raging at the ‘lies and fickle hearts of all prelates!’ Before they left, Carroe begged the loan of some of the Earl’s books for Maelee and he waved his assent negligently, having lost all interest in the Company.

As they left, Malvol realised that the earl would live only so long as it took to wed Hadric’s young son to Edmund’s daughter, ending the question of the succession permanently. He grimly resolved, in that moment, to have the truth of it.

Carefully, they made their way to the dormitory and locked the doors. They related, in whispered tones, what had just passed to Jasper and Maelee. Maelee was scared and uninterested and instead fell on the books Carroe had borrowed. She read, to her rising horror, that most women who had fallen pregnant with Fey children, never bore another living thing in their wombs. She silently wept until she also read that ‘…the Goodwives of the village of Cranton can heal woman made barren by a changeling.’ She resolved to go there, as soon as possible, for though she had spent so long trying to return to mortal lands, she realised that all those she had known were dead and everything she had known was changed. And so her heart longed for the colour and joy of the Summer King’s realm; the only home now she had left in all the world.

Session 1

Session 2

Session 4

Maelee

Malvol

Jasper

Sven

Carroe

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