[IC] Dolmenwood

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Wil arrives at the time agreed upon, finding Brielle already here. He's dressed and packed himself in the best way he could, hoping he wasn't completely unprepared for a journey into the dark Dolmenwood forest.

He waves to Brielle, "Good day, Miss Brielle! And to you as well, Mssr. Krup" Seeing his oddly dressed companion makes Wil feel a little better about his own choice of dress. He smiles at the newcomer, asking, "Is this our esteemed guest, Mssr. Thigwhistle?"
Ignatius arrives early, but not wanting to seem to eager, waits until his fellows arrive and then, after greeting them, enters the grounds with them. He hails Krup and introduces himself to the strangely dressed fellow, assuming he is the sage that Mssr. Krup mentioned.

"I am Ignatius Stone, sir," he bows his head, one hand on his sword grip and the other pressed to his chest. "Squire to Sir Donovan Hedger of House Halthwidden. I am pledged to your cause."
"Salutations, I have returned." Silver and Quicksilver says. He no longer has the needle in had assured of everything being real for the moment. He looks around at the others who are also here with a slightly amused smile. "Hello." He reiterates for them as he addresses them specifically by name.
Jubber's head pops out from one of the trees bordering the yard. "Jubber got here before the sun and has napping until now, human lady." He ducks back into the foliage. The leaves rustle briefly, then the woodgrue drops to the ground. "Jubber has his shawm ready for travel. Music makes journeys better!"
Krup waves you all over genially. "Welcome my friends, I'm glad you all decided to come." He stands up and dusts some crumbs off his dressing gown and fumbles for his pipe. "Um, I'm sure you're all pleased to meet .." he trails off as repeated pocket patting fails to locate a pipe. "Ahh, hrmm, yes, this is the inimitable Ferny Thigwhistle, scholar of wide repute." He gestures at the other man grandly with one hand while the other continues to pat at pockets. "Scholar Thigwhistle is a leading expert on the legends and tales of Dolmenwood and, frankly, the only expert who knows anything of any worth about our ghost march."

The scholar clears his throat and begins, "Ahh, well, yes, I have had the occasion.."

"Ah-ha!" exclaims Krup, there you are!" as he pulls his pipe out of an inner pocket.

"Um, erm, yes, as I was saying, I have had the occasion to study..."

"Where have the iced buns gone? MUGWORT..."

The scholar looks carefully at Krup, silence stretching uncomfortably.

"Well, go on man, out with it already," Krup grumbles, finally lighting his pipe.

"Yes, so I have had the occasion to study the legends of this fair wood in some significant detail, including not a few texts acquired at some expense..."

"Your iced buns," rumbles Mugwort, stepping into the middle of the group and clacking open a silver folding table, onto which a tray of buns is placed.

The scholar bobs this way and that like an annoyed seagull, trying to regain eye contact with the group but quite failing to manage around Mugwort's bulk.

What do you do?
"Tell us what you think we should know, Master Thigwhistle, we've an interest in the details, of course kindly don't embellish too much. We like the facts as they are not gilded at all. However, all ghosts are tricky. Don't mind Master Krup, he's here, mostly. At least when its important, so do go on."
Krup beams at you beatifically, a merry glint in his eye, and waves his pipe in a gesture that Ferny should continue.

The scholar harumphs quietly and straightens his travelling jacket. "Yes, well, as I was saying, I have made much study of the ghosts of Dolmenwood, and the story of the Ghost Army of Duke Precipus Brakenwold is a fascinating one. We only have fragments mind, and I suspect that at some point a concerted effort was made to clean the ducal records of any trace of the story, but from various sources I've managed to piece at least an outline of what happened together, or at least how things started." He pauses to collect his thoughts and then continues.

"This would have been about 500 years ago, the dates are fuzzy, but it was definitely several generations after the Kingdom of Brackenwold was annexed and became a Dutchy. Precipus was either the third or fourth Duke of Brackenwold. Early in his reign a darkness rose in the Table Downs to the north of Dolmenwood. A dark queen, we don't know her name, but was she was a sorceress of great power, started working great magics on the barrows there and raising a host of undead. Farms burned, towns razed, all in the name of the Dark Raven banner that was her sigil. Precipus was quick to act and quickly raised what army he could and headed north to meet the forces of the sorceress, leaving his brother Parcival to continue the levy, with the understanding that Parcival would follow with a second force as soon as he was able."

"Precipus met the forces of undeath on the barren fields of the Table Downs and won a great victory, though at great cost. The Sorceress was slain, or banished, and her undead minions fed to the earth of the Downs. But Precipus' force paid a heavy price, and perhaps one man in five remained standing at the end of the day, as crows wheeled in the setting sun. Precipus and his men did what they could for the fallen and then slept under the eaves of the forest some distance from the battlefield. This much we know, mostly from letters and journals gathered from various knightly houses whose forebears were part of the battle. The rest of the story is clouded and here I must resort to educated guesswork." Ferny sighs, a melancholy look crossing his face.

"We do know that the remnants of Precipus' force headed back south, making for Brackenwold, but after that they disappear from history. They did not arrive, and the army levied by Parcival saw nothing of them when they headed north to link forces. Parcival mounted a frantic search that lasted, by some accounts, for many months, but never found a trace of his brother of the heroic survivors of the Battle of Darkling Barrow, as it has come to be known. The most common theories involve ambush by a second force of undead, or fairy knights, or bandits, and a takle or two even has them walking into a thick mist and simply vanishing. Regardless, about a hundred years later stories started to circulate of a ghost army seen the woods. After much tedious research I managed to piece together a timeline that had the ghosts appearing about once every 77 years, with the next occurrence predicted in this coming week."

Here Krup breaks in eagerly, " Some of those stories describe the army as singing while it marches, and I would dearly love to hear the words to that song. Perhaps they might help find out what happened to Precipus and his men all those years ago. I would like you to accompany Ferny here into the Dolemenwood to the reported area of the ghost sightings and protect and aid him while he attempts to record the words to the song, when the ghosts appear."
Ferny continues, "The sources suggest that the ghosts appear over three nights starting two night from now. They appear along the route of the old road, some miles to the north and east of here, which used to run straight from what is now Harrowmoor to Castle Brackenwold. I would like to capture the song and any details from all three appearances, as accounts differ widely and I suspect that they are not the same drama played out three times."

He grins brightly at the party. "I'm sure there won't be any difficulty! None of the stories I read suggest that the ghost army is in any way dangerous."

Krup harrumphs at this last comment. He points to the pile of bags beside the pony. "As you requested, packs and and equipment have been provided. No pitchforks, sadly. All of your other requests have been met as far as I know. I will also send along this bag," he says, bringing a red leather pouch from under his robes, "it contains pure salt from the mines of Charn mixed with shavings of silver and cold iron. I cannot guarantee it's effectiveness against any ghosts you might meet, but then again it may. I myself have found it a useful last resort on more than one occasion."

[OOC] An examination of the bags reveals that each of you has a pack containing one weeks rations (tasty looking), two full water skins, a lantern, 3 flasks of oil, 2 torches, a tinderbox, and a small tent. There is also a larger pack for the pony that contains 3 large waxed canvas tarps, 3 coils of hempen rope (50' each), 2 bundles of kindling, and a camp kitchen (pots, pans, plates, cutlery)[OOC]

What do you do?
"Thank you. I will take charge of that for now." He says as he speaks to Krup. about the bag of supernatural bane stuff. He then goes over and checks the packing of items to see if they meet his criteria. He also asks all the horses their names. "Hello, we would like you to be of service, we will make sure you are fed and cared for during this time..." He smiles as if each horse and gently pets them with his assured calmness.
Wil grabs one of the packs, and throws it over his shoulder, gives the pony a scrub around the ears, then helps load the larger packs on our new equine friend.

Looking to Mssr. Thigwhistle and the others, he says, "I expect we should be away soon. The first appearance is two nights hence..."
Ig helps Wil with the bags, and then looks at the pony. "She's a fine animal," he says. "I've had to care for Sir Donovan's horse these past two years, so I can help with this pony if needed."

He then steps up to Thigwhistle. "I'll travel beside you, sir, to make sure you are safe." He hefts one of the packs onto his back and then falls in line beside Thigwhistle, his hand on the hilt of his sword.
Thigwhistle looks somewhat reassured. "Yes, well, I don't think there should be any danger, but you have my thanks. Are we, um, are we leaving right away then?" He looks around at the rest of the party...
Wil looks at Mssr. Thigwhistle, then asks, "About how far is it to this stretch of the Old Road?"

A moment later, he adds, "And how confident are you with your calculations as to the date of the Ghost armies appearance? We wouldn't want to miss them if you're potentially off by a day..."
"Not far, not far," Thigwhistle replies. "Perhaps 12 miles. We take the Harrow Road north almost to the Keep and the cut east to link up with the old road. I have a map here somewhere..." He starts fumbling in his pockets, "I'm quite sure about the calculation though, I've been over and back over the source material endlessly aligning feast days and it all adds up." He finally produces a rather wrinkled map from one of his many pouches, "Ah-hah!" he exclaims as he smooths it out and shows it to you. "You can see the route and the the position of the old road here..."

[OOC] The route seems correct to your somewhat inexpert eye[/OOC]
Brielle will study the map carefully, comparing it to what she knows of the nearby lands.

She will then turn to Krup. "Before we continue any further, we should discuss the matter of remuneration," she says.
Krup laughs heartily, "I was wondering when the subject of lucre would come up. I am prepared to pay each of you one hundred gold pieces for you services to myself and good Thigwhistle over the next fortnight. I will also gladly pay bonuses at the completion of our arrangement depending on the success of your rendezvous with our ghosts. I will reserve judgement as to the possibility or size of such a bonus until I can judge the results."

He hands each of you a heavy leather pouch. "Here is half you fee up front, to cover unexpected costs, and as a show of good faith and my high hopes for your success."

He looks at you all for a long moment, as if weighing your somehow. "It is also possible that should this business go as well as I hope, that I might have other work for such an enterprising group of young travelers as yourselves. We can speak about that on your return."

"Oh yes," Krup says with a start, "I have also arranged for the lot of you to enjoy a hearty luncheon at The Wrinkled Medlar today. One can't set off on an adventure on an empty stomach!" he says, running a hand over his own not inconsiderable belly. "Mistress Hydball has been instructed to expect you and should have something acceptable laid on in advance of your arrival."

"Was there anything else?" he asks.

[OOC] The Wrinkled Medlar serves the finest meal in Prigwort[/OOC]
Wil catches the pouch, surprised both at its heavy weight and the forthrightness of Mssr. Krup.

"I suppose we have time for a pre-adventure luncheon, especially as it involves the esteemed Wrinkled Medlar"

He grabs the pony's reigns, looks to the others and asks, "Shall we go enjoy a fine meal before we venture forth into the Dolmenwood?"
"Jubber has already enjoyed the hospitality of Mistress Hydball! She did not know this, but it is the truth!" The woodgrue chuckles to himself.
"Yes, a fine meal before our travels will be most welcome," Brielle says. She had never had a chance to dine at the Medlar, and was curious to see how it compares to the meal that Krup has graced them with the day before.
You collect your various bags and packs and head back into town to sit down at the Wrinkled Medlar before you set out. Krup has assured you that food will await your arrival. The weather is warmer than this morning and the sun is shining. All in all a fine day. You pass the time back to town in idle conversation.

Approaching the Wrinkled Medlar you see several horses and a carriage pulled up outside. Two grim looking toughs, a man and a woman, both in dark leathers, stand by the horses, and constantly scan the street as if they expect horse thieves to jump out from behind a water barrel. They are both solid looking and wear leather masks that cover the bottom half of their faces. They have matching stained and evil looking cudgels hanging from their belts. There is another man, taller and slim, dressed in somewhat travel stained finery, a thin fencing sword at his waist. He is seated on a chair next to the door of the Medlar, smoking a cheroot and blandly watching the passers by while he strokes his somewhat fussy moustache. All three of them give your group a hard once over as you near the inn. The dandy looks away, but the two toughs keep giving you the eye. The mounts, carriage, and people are blocking easy access to the front door. You can get in, but it will require a bit of pardon me-ing.

What do you do?

Tulpa Girl Tulpa Girl Vargold Vargold hawkeyefan hawkeyefan bleys21 bleys21 Silverlion Silverlion
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Wil pulls his holy symbol out from under his cloak, making it a bit more prominent. Putting a smile on his face, he walks toward the tall, thin man, moving around the end of the wagon. "Good day, sir! May God's light shine upon you this fine day! If it's not inconvenient, we'd like to squeeze by you to enter this fine establishment. We're expected, you see!"

With that, Wil will attempt to politely move past the thin man and the wagon, toward the entrance of the Medlar.
Ig moves up behind the Wil, his hand not on the hilt of his sword, but on his belt not far from it. He eyes the three strangers as Wil speaks to them.
The two leather-clad toughs give way, but grudgingly and at the last moment. The dandy sneers and chuckles at this little mummers display.

The interior of the Medlar is dark compared to the sunshine outside and its takes your eyes a moment to adjust. A couple of patrons are seated at a table near the fireplace eating their noonday meal. The dining room is well appointed - elegant, but with some rustic touches that speak of Prigwort. Various archaic farm implements and weapons adorn the stone walls. The tables are draped in linen and set with silver, and a couple of smartly dressed servers bustle about on their various tasks. At the back of the room, by the stairs to the second floor, you see the proprietor, Maydrid Hyball, in quiet but intense discussion with two other people: an elderly man, stern and clean cut and wearing the robes and appurtenances of a Bishop, and a younger women dressed in fine chain with a scar on her cheek and an elaborate longsword at her belt. The Bishop stands mute, seeming unconcerned, while the Hydrid and the woman have a furious discussion in low tones. Hydrid throws up her hands in a gesture of defeat and gestures up the stairs. The woman smiles thinly in reply, but says nothing. She and the Bishop head up the stairs to the second floor.

A waiter, short and round with a red face, bustles up to you. "Good morn! Welcome to the Medlar." he says. "We have a strict no weapons policy in the dining room, so if you would be so kind as to deposit yours in the cloak room," he gestures off to the left "we can get you seated. Mssr Krup left descriptions of you, and detailed instructions good folk, and you can be sure they have been carried out. You tables are set in our private room. I can guide you once you have divested yourself of you various weapons." He smiles hopefully and rubs his hands together. "Have no fear, our boy will make sure they aren't interfered with."

What do you do?
[OOC]It was at this moment that Vargold realized he had neglected to purchase any weapon for Jubber.[/OOC]

"Jubber has no weapon, just his shawm. For piping notes, not poking holes!"
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Ig is a bit reluctant to hand over his weapon with unsavory folks about, but he’s not about to disobey his host’s requests. He removes his sword from his belt and his dagger as well, and turns them over.
Silver and Quicksilver smiles at the folks, at some point he has drawn out the needle again. 'Pardon me' he says as he squeezes past with the needle in his hand. When he gets past and is asked for his weapon he hands them his spear and pulls out five needles mostly for repairing clothes and gently hands them over.
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Brielle hands over her assorted weaponty, hoping that she won't find reason to regret having done so.
Wil follows the others, leaving his weapons with the attendant in the cloak room, then follows the directions of the waiter on to the private room.
The obsequious waiter ushers you through the dining area to a private room toward the back of the building. Inside is a long table lavishly laden with delicious foodstuffs. Meat pies, baked fish, roasted vegetables, fresh bread and butter, and many other dishes. Chairs enough for all of you line each side of the long table and off to one side is a smaller buffet set with water, hot tea, and chilled white wine. Your mouth begins to water as soon as you walk through the door.

The waiter waves an arm at the spread. "Please enjoy yourselves and eat you fill. My name is Gared, and if you need anything just ring the pull rope by the wine buffet and I will come as quickly as I can. Do you require anything else while I'm here?"

What do you do?
Ig speaks quietly to the waiter. “Thank you, sir. May I ask… who are the folk outside? They appear rather… unsavory. Were they guests here?”
The waiter looks momentarily nonplussed. "The who?", then you see comprehension. "Oh! You must mean the Bishop's retinue. I can't say as I took a good look at them sir, but if they're with the Bishop they should be good sorts, right?" He wrings his hands, "they should be staying here sir though, yes. Servants and the like get either a small room off their master's or one of the small rooms in the back on the ground floor."

"Will that be all sir?"
The waiter looks momentarily nonplussed. "The who?", then you see comprehension. "Oh! You must mean the Bishop's retinue. I can't say as I took a good look at them sir, but if they're with the Bishop they should be good sorts, right?" He wrings his hands, "they should be staying here sir though, yes. Servants and the like get either a small room off their master's or one of the small rooms in the back on the ground floor."

"Will that be all sir?"

Ig nods. “Yes, thank you for explaining. I did not realize the bishop was here…” he says, leading the waiter, hoping he may share a bit more, but satisfied if not.
"He's only just arrived sir, no reason you'd know." He says, and bustles off back into the dining room.

You get the impression that this isn't the sort of establishment that tolerates casual gossip from staff about guests.
Wil heads over to the buffet, and pours himself a glass of the white wine. Might be the last one he has for a while...

He looks to the others, and asks, "Anyone else care for a glass?"
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