Sunday, July 23, 2006

Conspiracy of Shadows (Season Two, Session Seven)

The Cell travel by sea from Tor to the River Vistula and from there take river boats up stream to the headwaters of the Vistula itself. They enter the ancient refuge of the Vorian era, the hills and mountains that the Vorians would retreat to in times of trouble. In latter days the rolling hills and quiet gullies filled with trees have become a place of spiritual retreats with shrines to the Saints and numerous monasteries and religious houses scattered throughout the area.

The group travel to the furthest religious house they can the Retreat of St. Coboon, which is really more of a noble hunting lodge and community hub that a true religious house. The brothers play host to the recovering Sedizwoj and his large retinue that has been causing Big Alexander so much concern and the others express an interest in travelling the two days further north to the tower by the waterfall. The brothers ask them to take several sacks of goods that they have purchased on behalf of the remote community with them and seeing the opportunity the group agree and ride north.

The tower (or rather the remains of the tower) are visible at some distance, as is the haze of the waterfall next to it. The tower is in an extremely poor state and is slumping on one side leading to the curved “claw” appearance of the tower. A dry stone wall can be seen around it and smaller stone shepherd huts. The tiny settlement is lodged in a niche of stone cliffs that stand to the right of the waterfall.

The group approach and on arriving see that a small trail leads up the bluff to the tower and the stone wall only allows entrance by the base of the tower. Within the wall are two thick walled shepherd huts, some wattle sheep pens and a substantial two storey building the size of a large barn.

The group walk to the large building and are greeted by a surprised cook and her husband but the sacks quickly smooth the way to the kitchen’s hearth and they group are soon brought to share a broth with the lord of the tower Asig Danaret. Danaret is the third generation lord of the tower and its surrounds and he seems a cultured and educated man, unusual in this isolated location. He seems to have an interest in the rocks of the surrounding area, hardly surprising as apart from sheep there is not a lot else here.

The group pose as travelling visitors who are here to see the famous waterfall and Asig promises to take them into the tower (which is a dangerous state) and allow them to fish on the lake in the morning.

The group accept his hospitality and after an uneventful night the two Alexander’s and Anatoli are taken into the tower while Kaspar is taken by Asig’s man servant to the lake to try fishing for trout using the coracle-like boats the villagers construct for themselves.

Inside the tower much of the structure is choked with rubble from the walls of the tower and the internal floors. The tower no longer has much of a roof and many of the internal staircases have fallen in to be replaced by rickety arrangements of wooden planks and supports. Only two rooms are really in any kind of inhabitable condition and both face onto the lake. One of the first storey is bare and plain apart from three votive niches in the back wall and a large window seat with a ledge for sitting an watching the lake. The other (positioned above it) has a large panoramic view of the lake and nearby woods while also having a magnificent view of the torrent of water descending into the lake. Asig uses this room as his study and a fine desk is in place along with a set of improvised shelving and boxes for Asig’s books and numerous parchments. Little Alexander fakes an interest in Asig’s views on geology to distract the noble while Big Alexander rifles through his scrolls. Meanwhile Anatoli is bored and has wandered back to the first room where he investigates the three niches that would have once contained statuettes facing onto the lake. To his surprise he finds a single witch mark cut into the base of each niche. He cuts his hand and lets the blood drain into the mark. The blood pools into the mark quickly and perfectly, Anatoli can hear a whispering as he does this. He hesitates for a moment, considering the possibility of wiping away the blood but then decides to carry his action to its logical conclusion and he pours more of his blood into each of the witch marks. As the last mark is filled with blood the red liquid vanishes from the stonework and an ominous rumble begins.
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