The warmth of spring 1222 was welcome in Commarque after the hard, bitter winter of 1221. A bright, balmy May day found Sir Gaidon d’Aubec dictating a report to his young wife when there was a loud knock upon the door.
It was Thybaut d’Limeuil, his man from the southwest region of the valley. Thybaut had dire news: Abbot Edric of Cadouin Abbey had disappeared, and with him a stranger who had sought shelter there but days before. Though affairs concerning the abbot were normally a matter for the church, he thought that the presence of the stranger suggested a very non-clerical influence—specifically, bandits. Gaidon promised to investigate and called Sir Etienne to join him.
Knowing he would need more men if there were bandits involved, Gaidon first traveled to Commarque to beseech the scholars there to lend their aid. At first they were reluctant, until Fortis pointed out that the Abbey lay adjacent to the forest of La Bessede, where some of the covenant members had planted some magical pine cones years before. Fortis convinced them that the covenant may have had some responsibility for the abbot’s disappearance, and this settled the matter.
It was decided that a small group of men would be sent to investigate, and more could be sent for if needed, for the Abbey was only a full day’s travel away. So Father Godefroi and the failed apprentice David rode in a cart, while Fortis of Flambeau, Sir Gaidon, and Thierry rode on horseback, and Gaston of Bjornaer traveled in his animal form.
When they arrived at the abbey, they were welcomed by Prior Ansel, who was dining on duck flavored with the truffle oil that the abbey sold as a small part of their income. He invited Gaidon and Father Godefroi to join him, and assumed the other men were men-at-arms, welcoming them to the brothers’ table in the main hall. This suited Gaston and Fortis well, as it gave them an opportunity to question the brothers and novices.
Prior Ansel briefly introduced his guests to Quentin, the novice who had waited upon the abbot, and explained that Abbot Edric had not been seen since two nights previously, when he disappeared sometime between Compline and Matins. The abbey received many visitors and pilgrims thanks, in part, to its possession of the Cadouin Shroud, but three days before one had been invited to stay with the abbot in his dwelling.
This man had arrived on horseback, saying that he had been attacked by bandits and robbed, and begged succor of the abbey. He was taken to the apothecary, where his needs were seen to, but soon he began to ask for the abbot, and he was humored, since his bearing and speech were noble. After some private conversation, the abbot had “Gervais” moved to his own guest room, where he stayed for two days before both men disappeared.
Meanwhile, the other men dined with the brothers on bean stew and bread, and learned some more details of the stranger’s appearance. Gaston questioned the truffle dogs, and learned that they did not like the stranger and thought he smelled “wrong”; that Quentin was kind to them; that the Abbot was good to them as well; and that the Prior kicked them.
After the meal, Sir Gaidon asked that he, Father Godefroi, and David be allowed to examine the stranger’s room and the abbot’s room. The prior agreed on the condition that he be allowed to accompany them. David, upon searching both rooms, found a few stray hairs and signs that something had been burned in the fireplace.
As the bell rang for the orders, Sir Gaidon and Father Godefroi agreed to attend at Prior Ansel’s behest, while the others stayed behind to share what they knew with each other. When Gaston learned that both the stranger’s and the abbot’s horse were still in the abbey’s barn, he knew they could not have gone far. Upon questioning the horse, he learned that the abbey’s visitor had arrived with little but a small satchel and the clothes he wore. The satchel, however, was nowhere to be found, and Quentin claimed that he had not found it when he cleaned the abbot’s house.
Fortis and David snuck back into the abbot’s house during services and took the ash they found in the fireplace, as well as a pillow which seemed to bear the mark of the abbot’s head, to use as an arcane connection.
As the novices emerged from the chapel, Father Godfrey and Gaidon attempted to question Quentin, but did not learn much other than that the boy seemed very afraid and concerned for the abbot, who had been kind to him.
The group determined that Gaston would take the hairs of the abbot and his visitor to Commarque so that Melita of Bonisagus could perform The Inexorable Search with them. After some effort, Gaston turned himself into a bird and arrived at Commarque that night. Melita performed her search and discovered that both abbot and his visitor were somewhere in the region of La Bessede; Zaccheus cast Opening the Intangible Tunnel and saw only a quiet conifer forest where the two men should be.
With this dread information, Gaston returned the next day. Fortis immediately understood its implications, and warned his companions not to venture into the forest of La Bessede, where only a person with magic resistance could go safely. With the hope that they would thus remain safe, Gaston and Fortis made ready to enter the forest and confront the trees.
Cast: Gaidon d’Aubec (Bob), William of Jerbiton, Fortis of Flambeau, and Father Godefroi (Patrick), Denel, David and Zaccheus (Dwight), Gaston of Bjornaer (Guillaume).
Delta Storyguide: Val
Experience: Source Quality ?