Mortui Vivos Docent

The West Breeds Wickedness, Part I

In the spring of the Year of Our Lord, 1220, Matheus the Vintner came to Sir William filled with excitement about a possibility for great profit and renown. It seemed the Sieur Brun d’Argen, who was responsible for supplying his Majesty King Henry’s court with wine, had heard tales of the delicacy and flavor of that made by Commarque. He wished to sample some, and if he liked it, to purchase 500 barrels.

Delighted with the prospect of sampling Sieur Brun’s wines and possibly establishing a profitable partnership, William determined to join Matheus. The newly arrived foreigner, Giovani, as well, detected the possibility of profit for himself, and attached himself to the travelling group. He traveled always with his bodyguards, who were most welcome on the journey, since the recent battle with mad wolves was still fairly fresh in everyone’s mind. Brandon Macheth and his faithful hound, along with Thierry and Gerard, accompanied them, as well, for protection.

At first the journey through a cold and damp spring was uncomfortable, though Sir William was at least able to conjure the water away from himself. However, on the sixth day, the group descended a hilltop to find the sun brightly shining and the small village of St. Emilion lying below them like a jewel in the valley.

All was not well in the village, however; the men of the village were thrashing the underbrush and calling for three lost children: friends, who had all left together to play the day before. After speaking with the mother of one of these, whose name was Philipe, Sir William was struck with sympathy for her plight and announced that he and his comrades would find the children. Many in the village suspected two foreigners, somewhat dark-complected, who had asked about children while passing through the previous day.

Sir William, Brandon, Gerard and Thierry set off in the direction of a meadow the children often used as a playground, while Giovani and his men stayed behind to rest their feet and watch the pretty young women of the village go about their spring chores. Using a cap of Philipe’s, Brandon set his wolfhound on the trail of the children, which ended at a stream. Though he found evidence of some sort of movement on the other side, the hound was confused, and Brandon could not tell whether man, animal or cart had taken the children away. Once he climbed up a tree, however, a trail of some sort became evident, leading off into the woods. He and Sir William and the others followed the trail until it seemed to end in a sparse section of wood by the side of a hill.

The hound perched himself at the base of the hill, whimpering, and attempted to dig. Sir William concluded the children must, regardless of the absurdity of it, be within the hill. He exhausted himself and used vis to cast a spontaneous spell and blow away a portion of the hillside, only to find the central part of this hole remained intact. Quite sensibly, Brandon stuck his hand into the central portion and found it went straight through – this was an illusion.

At this point, Sir William and Brandon began to feel the atmosphere of the place work upon them, though they did not know it. After exhausting himself further attempting to determine the nature of the aura they were in, William became convinced that there lay a great magical treasure or relic within the hole, and nothing would do but that he must get to it before anyone else did. Brandon could clearly see the magus huffing and puffing with fatigue, and attempted to talk sense into him. The two began to argue and even came to blows, each in his own way; finally, in disgust, Brandon abandoned William to the cave and began his return to the village.

Along the way he encountered Giovani and his men, who were following their trail. Brandon attempted to explain what they had found, but the language barrier combined with the fantastical nature of their discovery made clarity difficult. They all returned to the hillside together, to find that Sir William had entered and was rifling through a pile of bones and rotting flesh in the back of a cave, still convinced there was treasure to be found. It seems however, that one live person was within, for the boy Philipe began to whimper and call for his mother. He was alive, but could not move, for some strange reason. William, utterly exhausted at this point, picked up the boy and took him outside in order to silence his whining.

Soon a strange slithering and thumping sound in the underbrush announced the return of the cairn’s inhabitant. The strange creature had a woman’s head and upper torso, but a snake’s lower body and fierce-looking fangs. With an enraged hiss, she hurled herself at the men with terrifying speed, and began to claw them. A great battle ensued, during which it seemed likely at many points that all of them might succumb to the creature’s claws and enchanted singing. At one point, she bit Giovani, who then gradually over the next few moments became unable to move.

However, just as the men feared that one or all of them might be killed, the beast was distracted by the movements of Philipe, who was regaining his strength, and began crooning to him and slithering up to him, ignoring the men. Sir William croaked out a spell to confuse her, and it worked—she began to circle aimlessly, and was unable to return their blows. The men, entranced and sleepy from her singing, nonetheless finally managed to kill her after several mighty strikes. When the battle was over, another child, paralyzed, was discovered in the underbrush. However, since Philipe was regaining his strength, it seemed likely that this child and Giovani would, as well.

Disturbed by the encounter and the effect the area had had on him, Sir William apologized to Brandon and decided that perhaps he didn’t need to sample any new wine, after all. He returned to Commarque with Giovani’s prostrate form and his men, leaving Brandon, Gerard, and Thierry to escort Matheus the additional day’s journey to Libourne. While Philipe’s mother was overjoyed at his safe return, the other parents were not so happy to learn that their children had been killed by a “witch”. The decapitated head was showed for evidence, then taken to Commarque so that the two pawns of Imaginem vis that William had discovered in it could be extracted.

Cast: William of Jerbiton (Bob), Brandon Macheth (Nick), Giovani (Guillaume).

Delta Storyguide: Val