A Warm Welcome
Each morning the raven arrives at camp, and flies off in their intended direction – but as the raven flies! There is much back tracking and the following of winding animal trails that seem to provide good progress, only to peter out and force the party to back track to an alternate game path several miles back. The progress northwards is painfully slow…
It has been a month since the they left Salisbury; and both horses and men are footsore. Twelve days the witch women’s raven has greeted them each morning, but on the thirteenth day; their feathery guide and companion is not there.
After giving time for Rand to cook the band a hot breakfast for once – that is only slightly more burnt than it should be – Sir B gives the order, “East by North East lads” and the party head off; glad at last to have something new to discuss. Has the raven left them? Perhaps this is where they will find the Lady Jenna and Sir Ursal at long last! Perhaps distracted by the chatter, Bain rides his horse into a rabbit hole and lames it badly, and the big man is forced to walk this day. Whilst the war band is stopped to tend his mount, the sharp eyed Rand, ever on the lookout for something to spice up the cooking pot, spots the witch-raven (distinctive because of its size) and raises the alarm. Their feathered scout will not lead them again, as it has been clearly killed by something, and not gently. Never one to miss an opportunity, Rand places it into his supply bag for later.
Pushing on, the smell of wood smoke leads them to a scrofulous village. Whilst trading with the locals, the men learn they have traveled all the way to Ryddychan, only a few days travel from Oxford. Hunting is scarce in the area, and the villagers are cagey and secretive, but let slip that something has been scaring away game and leaving claw marks in the area. Hopeful of news of bear activity the men question the locals; but get no more information, as the local hunters are determined to deal with the problem themselves.
Ever courteous, Sir Brychan decides to call on the local lord (Sir Gwinis) and pay his respects. The manor house is a small but tidy, and the greeting of this sudden appearance of a very large group of heavily armed men is as cautious as it should be. Tensions between the Lords are quickly eased, but those between the men at arms take a little longer to settle. One Sargent seeks a way to gauge their guests, and asks about the injuries so fresh on Rands face.
Never one to be shy, Rand tells the tale of the raven witches and the attack he suffered, and for dramatic effect points to Myle, letting them know how fearsome the witch women and their ravens were by their threats to sever his manhood! The quick witted Daffyd did not miss this opportunity, as with the timing of a bard he said loud enough for all to hear
“Rand you fool, when he said those dirty birds nearly took his dick, he wasn’t on about the ravens, he was complainin’ about the clap!”
Raucous laughter burst out form all but Myle, who suddenly found himself the butt of jokes on every side, his discomfort breaking the ice that had till this moment been chilling the relations between the two groups of soldiers.
Unable to take any more abuse, Myle left the party with ribald comments echoing in his ears. Taking his leave he wandered the house near the manor, easing his stinging pride by singing sad songs. Such a beautiful man, singing so sweetly attracted the attention of the local girls. It was inevitable that one lonely house wife quickly took him under her wing and into her well used bed.
Meanwhile the casual conversation took a turn for the worse as the war band started asking questions about other travelers and the local hunting. Hearing the hunting was poor Rand offered up the fat raven he had claimed earlier and mentioned the intention of the local villagers to hunt down the clawed beast that was scaring off all the game. Grim faced was the reception to this news. But whatever the issue may be, it was put aside as the hall of Sir Gwinis proved itself most hospitable.
So hospitable in fact that the ever exuberant, and very inebriated, Rand got carried away cheering the story of the battle of the Wash; spilling his beer and blaming an innocent local guardsman. The ensuing melee among the lower benches was source of both embarrassment and pride for our dear lord Brychan, for whilst his men had started the fight, they had also finished it! Much entertained, the lords retired to their chambers upstairs and the rest of the men bedded down to fill the great hall with their snores.
The slumbering chorus was soon interrupted by foreign voices, raised in argument, echoing down through the ceiling. Not recognising the strange tongue, the men at arms began to rouse and prepare, and were quickly rushing to the high chambers when the sounds of conflict broke out!
Bursting through the door to Sir Brychans chambers, most of the war band took a moment to take in the broken shutters, the shattered furniture and bloody fallen sword of Sir Brychan on the floor..
Most but not all; like a striking hawk, Daffyd didn’t break stride and flew through the shattered window frame after the missing knight. Hitting the ground running and following the drag marks and blood trials leading into the night darkened woods…