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Subject: Gwidrite Heresies - Session Four rss

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Kai S.
Germany
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Drama Llama Roleplaying Society
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Participating Players
Game Leader – Kai
Maeveen – Sara
Morwenna - Jonna
Nikolas – Fred
Saroc – Simon
Valbrand – Bavo

List of previous sessions

***

The group is on the way back to the village of Niddrie, carrying Elena’s unconscious body on a makeshift stretcher and moving as fast as possible, with the still injured Saroc hobbling along in front and leading the way. They arrive at around 4 o’clock in the afternoon and notice that the palisades are unmanned - most of the militia seems to be still out in the woods, looking for Elena. When they enter the village square Samuel spots them and comes running towards the group. Valbrand, who is carrying one end of the stretcher notices that the boy looks really scared and worried. Samuel gestures at the figure on the stretcher: „Is that her? Did you find her?“

Valbrand nods: „Yes. Samuel, please, fetch some firewood and bring it to Nikolas’ place, we’re gonna need it. She needs to be kept warm.“

Nikolas walks to the stretcher and looks at Elena for a few seconds, then he seems to suddenly remember what Valbrand asked him to do and starts running towards one of the farms. Valbrand has been watching Samuel closely and thinks that the boy is really worried about Elena, but seems less surprised at her condition than he should. He takes mental note of that, but for now it is too little to go on. He turns to Nikolas: „Shall we take her to your practice?“

Nikolas nods: „Yeah, we better do that. The room I have is pretty easy to heat.“

They carry the stretcher to Nikolas’ practice, which is located in Deabra’s house, and put Elena in bed. Nikolas thinks they should send someone to get Morwenna, but by pure coincidence she has arrived in the village at this exact moment. Saroc and Valbrand meanwhile head off to find Jenrick, Elena’s father. As they make their way to the farm, they notice Samuel coming out of Jenrick’s house, followed by Jenrick himself who starts running towards Saroc the instant he sees them. Valbrand moves close close to Saroc, ready to fend off the farmer if necessary. Jenrick grabs Saroc by the collar and yells: „Where is she?“

„Nikolas is taking care of her“, Valbrand calmly replies.

„WHERE is she?“

„At the practice.“

Jenrick pushes Saroc aside and starts running toward the practice, but is immediately stopped by Valbrand, who grabs him by the shoulder and tells him: „She’s exhausted, she needs rest and warmth.“ The farmer struggles to break free and when Valbrand doesn’t let go of him, he takes a swing at the Blade Knight. Since the farmer has to turn around to reach him, Valbrand manages to act first and easily grapples the man, who very obviously is not a trained fighter. He then stops and looks at Jenrick: „I urge you to calm yourself!“

„You will not keep me away from my daughter!“ The farmer tries to break free again.

„I am not intending to! I am intending to keep you from worsening her situation!“

Jenrick tries to punch Valbrand again and hits him straight in the jaw this time. The Blade Knight stumbles back a few steps, lets go of the farmer… and then immediately hits Jenrick with a punch to the gut, which makes him double over and drop to his knees.

Valbrand stares at the man: „I have been very, VERY restrained up until now with your anger. Don’t make me angrier!“ He then grabs the farmer by the shoulder, pulls him up and drags him to the practice, keeping a tight grip on the man’s arm. He is absolutely stunned when he realizes the farmer doesn’t struggle any longer, but instead starts crying.

Morwenna has been watching the scene unfold and soothingly says_ „Come on, Valbrand, he just wants to see his daughter. Wouldn’t you in the same situation?“ She turns to Jenrick: „You are not gonna judge her or make her situation any worse, are you, Jenrick?“

The farmer merely shakes his head. When Morwenna asks him if he wants to see Elena, he nods and whispers: „Yes…“

Valbrand looks at the farmer: „Can you stand?“

Jenrick nods and mumbles something that sounds like: „Yes.“ He then looks at the knight: „Why… why are you keeping me away from my little girl?“

Valbrand looks at Jenrick for a moment: „Because I misjudged. You are an angry man, Jenrick, I thought you might do something… rash.“

Jenrick’s eyes go wide when he realizes what Valbrand is implying: „Maybe you shouldn’t judge so fast, Sir Knight.“ He turns around and starts walking towards the practice. Valbrand seems pensive for a moment and then follows Morwenna and the farmer to the practice, where Jenrick has stopped at the door - it seems he doesn’t dare to enter the building, probably afraid of what he might find inside. Morwenna and Valbrand notice that his lips are moving… he seems to whisper „Elena“ over and over again.

Morwenna walks next to him and offers her hand: „Come on… I’ll go with you.“ He takes her hand and starts walking into the room on very shaky legs.

***


In the practice Nikolas checks Elena’s vital signs again. He thinks she is still in a very bad shape and might not survive the night. When he looks up he notices Morwenna leading Jenrick into the room. He turns to the herbalist: „Morwenna, glad that you’re here! Oh… and Jenrick, hello. Morwenna, do you have any of your special herbs with you?“

„I don’t have anything with me, but I can go fetch anything we need.“

Nikolas describes what kind of effect he needs for his treatment of Elena and Morwenna immediately knows what herbs are required to achieve that effect. Before she goes back to her hut she walks over to Jenrick and asks: „Are you gonna be okay?“ Jenrick is kneeling next to Elena’s bed, looking at her and holding her hand - he doesn’t even seem to notice Morwenna’s presence. She briefly puts her hand on his shoulder and when he doesn’t react at all turns to Nikolas: „Can you keep an eye on him? He doesn’t seem to be doing to well. Make sure he’s not collapsing completely.“ She then leaves to get the herbs Nikolas asked her for and also some soothing herbs for Jenrick, while Nikolas gets a wooden stool for Jenrick to sit on… but the farmer still doesn’t react at all. He then begins with a thorough examination of Elena… until a woman enters his practice, which he recognizes as Barba, Elena’s mother. She walks straight up to him: „Doctor Nikolas, doctor, she needs to go home immediately! Home is the best medicine possible and that’s where she needs to go right now!“

„Barba, please, I’m…“

She interrupts him: „Doctor, please, I know exactly what to do! After all I’m her mother!“

„Please, Barba, would you just…“

„We need more blankets! Go get me some blankets! These are not sufficient! More blankets!“

„Well, if that’s the case, perhaps you should go and fetch some?“ Nikolas is getting quite annoyed by now, but he also realizes that woman is probably in shock too.

„Oh, doctor, I wouldn’t dare rummage through your stuff!“ Valbrand has been watching the scene unfold from the door, while Nikolas tries to direct the woman to a cabinet, so he can get rid of her. At this moment, Barba turns around and spots Valbrand: „Sir Knight, do a good deed and fetch those blankets! They’re up there!“ She points at the cabinet. Valbrand looks at Nikolas, not quite sure how to react, while the woman yells: „What are you waiting for, Sir Knight? Come on!“

Nikolas gestures for Valbrand to remove the farmer’s wife from his practice and the Blade Knight complies. He calmly walks in and addresses her: „Could I ask you a few questions, Barba?“

She completely ignores him though: „Oh, Nikolas, by the way, you should put her feet in hot water! That’s exactly what she needs - hot water!“

„Madame? If I may have your attention?“ Valbrand tries again.

„What? Oh, sorry, but I’m talking to the doctor!“

Nikolas tries to get her to shut up: „Look, Barba, I’m doing everything I can to…“

„Hot water! HOT water, that’s what she needs! You have heard of that, haven’t you? Sir Knight, would you get me a bowl of hot water, please?“

Valbrand puts a hand on Barba’s shoulder: „I suggest we leave the room… now!“ He then tries to drag her out of the room - at first she struggles but he simply overpowers her and pulls her out of the hut, while Saroc is standing at the door, watching the whole scene and laughing. To stop Barba from interfering in the treatment of her daughter again, Valbrand closes the door and tries to distract her by asking a few questions: „Goodwife Barba, your daughter, she is…“

„…Very ill, indeed, Sir Knight. I will go to my house and prepare some tea for her immediately! I’m sure the doctor doesn’t know about this tea - learned people, you know?“

Valbrand shrugs and decides not to argue with this woman. Once she has left he walks back into the practice again and tells Nikolas to lock the door, in case Barba returns with the tea…

***


Maeveen meanwhile is on her way to get Brother Callum. When she arrives she immediately notices that the old priest is swaying a bit from left to right and has the smell of alcohol on his breath. He looks at the blacksmith and addresses her with a heavy tongue: „Maeveeennn… good to see you…“

„This is not a good time! You need to fix this and fix it soon!“

„Fix what?“

„Your state!“ Maeveen sighs and looks around - and notices Brother Yorum, who is entering the chapel at precisely this moment and walks straight over to her.

„Good afternoon, Maeveen. You seem distressed, my child. Is there anything that I can assist you with?“

„I have been distressed for the last four months, you haven’t reacted until now! Why should you suddenly care?“

Yorum looks at Callum for a few seconds and then gestures for Maeveen to follow him. He walks a few meters away and then sits down on one of the pews: „I was told by Brother Callum that I should not interfere. That this was none of my business…“

„It’s not.“

„And that is why I didn’t interfere. I am fully aware of your distress.“

„So why are you interfering now?“

He sighs: „Because I have witnessed him… decay.“

„And?“

„It has become quite obvious to me that… I have to take over his place a lot sooner than I thought I would.“ He pauses for a few seconds. „His drinking habit has become a massive issue. You seem surprised - yes, I’ve known it for several months already. He thinks I haven’t noticed, but I have.“

„Yeah, right.“

„So what is it that I can assist you with, my child?“

„Someone attacked Elena.“

„Jenrick’s daughter? And how is she?“

„Dying, as far as I could tell.“

„Then I shall pray for her. But that is not all… is there anything else I can assist you with? Where is she right now?“

„At the doctor’s.“

„Bring me there.“

Maeveen nods and she reluctantly guides the young priest to Nikolas’ practice… and Yorum starts praying the instant they leave the chapel. Maeveen recognizes the prayer as one for the terminally ill, but Yorum modifies it slightly and wishes for Elena to recover.

***


They arrive at Nikolas’ practice, where Yorum knocks firmly on the door. When no-one answers the door, he calls out: „Nikolas? Open up, please!“

Nikolas gives the door an annoyed look. He has been caring for Elena up until now, but her condition hasn’t changed. Jenrick is still kneeling next to his daughter’s bed, his head now resting on her hand, his body shaking - Nikolas thinks that he’s probably crying. The doctor answers the door and when learns it’s one of the two priests, he immediately lets him and Maeveen in. He greets the priest: „Brother Yorum, come in. Sorry about the locked door - a few minutes ago Barba was here and made quite a mess. What Elena needs right now is a lot of rest and quiet.“

„True, but she also needs guidance.“ The priest smiles gently.

„Well, Jenrick over there, he could also use some assistance. He’s pretty much broken…“

„Is that any wonder? He loves his daughter dearly.“

„Yes, but right now I can’t attend to both of them.“

„We shall see what can be done.“ Yorum turns to Valbrand and Saroc; he frowns when he notices the latter: „Your name is Saroc, right?“ When the trader nods, he continues: „What are you doing here?“

„I’m a guide. I was helping Brother Valbrand to see if we could track the girl in the woods.“

„You have performed your duties admirably. May the Lord be with thee.“ The priest then walks back into the room where Elena is lying and starts praying.

Meanwhile Morwenna has returned and, since the door to the practice is currently not locked, walks straight in. After she has entered, Saroc immediately locks the door again. Morwenna gives him a confused look: „Why did you lock the door?“

Saroc shrugs: „The mother was causing a fuss and disturbing the girl, so we just wanna keep it quiet.“ He then leaves to wait outside and has one of the others lock the door behind him. Outside he mumbles: „Too much piety in there!“

***


Valbrand leaves the hut as well: „Saroc, a word with you, please! You have the drawing of the footprints of Elena’s attacker?"

Saroc nods: „Yes, here“, and he gets out the drawing.

„You're far more observant than I. Can you follow up on it?“

„Yeah, I'm going to head over to the other friends of Elena and check the prints against them.“

„Do you need to be accompanied?“

„That might be helpful… whoever did that“, Saroc nods back to the house and the girl, „ain't in their right mind!“

„Then we shall find this person.“

„And who first?“

„The drunk.“ They both start walking off.

***


Meanwhile inside the practice, Morwenna hands the herbs she brought with there to Nikolas. They both notice Yorum has now turned to Jenrick and is talking to him in a low voice. Morwenna mumbles: „I wish he wasn’t here, he’s only gonna make a mess of everything.“ Nikolas realizes that Yorum is trying to console Elena’s father - and whatever he’s telling him, it seems to work, at least somewhat: Jenrick seems to calm down a bit, even though he’s still crying. Nikolas turns away and starts preparing the medicine for Elena. Morwenna assists him and is curiously looking at what he’s doing while she’s preparing a soothing tea for Jenrick.

After a few minutes, Yorum approaches Nikolas: „I have a request to make. I know this is something you don’t do regularly, but is it possible to put another bed in this room, so Jenrick can stay with his daughter during the night.“

„Hm… I think that would be possible, yes. You should talk to Deabra, it’s her house after all. I just hope Elena’s condition will improve tomorrow.“

The priest thanks him and then leaves the practice, nodding a goodbye at both Maeveen and Morwenna. He seems to have left the door unlocked though, since Barba once again appears in the practice: „Doctor, I brought that tea I told you about earlier!“

Morwenna quickly moves over to her: „Barca! I’ve got something really important for you to do! Here’s some tea, your husband really needs it right now!“

„I’m sorry, but I’ve got something even more important to do! That’s my daughter on that bed over there, and she needs help! My help, her mother’s help!“

„Your husband needs your help too, and Elena is already taken care of.“

„Why don’t you help my husband, since you seem so worried about him? I’m really worried about my daughter!“

„You want me to take care of your husband?“

Barba nods and then simply pushes Nikolas away to try and get to Elena. Maeveen moves to intervene, but Nikolas holds her back. He has been thinking hard about what else can be done for the girl right now, but he couldn’t think of anything - in fact he’s not even sure she’s going to survive the night. He decides that it doesn’t make any difference whether he or her mother cares for her, unless Barba tries to remove Elena from the practice. He explains his reasoning to Morwenna, who doesn’t agree at all and thinks they should get rid of Barba as quickly as possible.

***


Valbrand and Saroc decide to visit Renan’s hut, but none of them knows where to find it. Saroc pops his head back into the practice: „Oy, Morwenna, can I have a quick word with you, please?“

„Sure.“ She turns to Nikolas: „Make sure Jenrick drinks this.“ She shoves the mug of tea in his hand and without even waiting for his response leaves the hut: „So what’s up, Saroc?“

„That Renan chap… where is his hut?“

Morwenna sighs: „Ugh… it’s that way.“ She points towards the East. „You really wanna see him?“

„No, actually I’m hoping he’s not there, so I can look at the footprints and compare them to the ones we found in the woods, to see if it’s him.“

„That sounds like fun! Come on, let’s go!“ She starts leading the two men to the eastern outskirts of the village.

Valbrand give her a concerned look: „Morwenna, are you not needed with the girl? You’re a healer… at least to some description…“

The herbalist nods: „Oh, right…“ She then gives them directions to Renan’s hut and moves back to the practice, while the two men head off to Renan’s hut. They are having trouble with the instructions Morwenna gave them though, so they return to the practice and ask Maeveen to guide them to the hut in Morwenna’s place. The blacksmith nods: „You should’ve just followed her general directions. Follow the way she points, not what she says…“

Saroc nods: „Yeah, I kinda gathered that… come on, then, let’s get moving before it gets dark and I can’t see nothing.“

They walk over to Renan’s place - and arrive at an incredibly ramshackle hut. It looks like it’s about to collapse any second and it’s hard to believe anyone actually lives in this place. Saroc decides to check for footprints a little bit away from the hut first. There are footprints all over the area, but all of them are mushed and utterly unusable for his purposes. He curses, walks up to the hut and knocks on the door.

A tired voice is heard from inside the hut: „Yeah? Is that you, Gladdys?“

„No, it’s not fucking Gladdys! Apparently some princess ran off and after midnight she left her shoe behind! We’re coming to see if there’s anybody who wants to marry the prince!“ Saroc notices how Valbrand gives him a weird look.

„What the hell?“ Renan seems utterly confused and opens the door. „What are you talking about?“

Saroc doesn’t respond, instead he looks down at Renan’s shoes. The drunkard is wearing very worn boots and Saroc is immediately convinced these boots could’ve made the footprints he found in the woods - in fact he notices that the tip of the right boot has a very characteristic triangular dent… the same dent some of the footprints in the woods showed. He looks to Valbrand and gives the Blade Knight a slight nod, who steps forward: „If you’d come with us, please…“

„The fuck I’ll do…“ Renan tries to slam the door in their faces, while Valbrand pushes against it in an effort to keep it open. Saroc quickly joins him and together they easily overpower Renan and force the door open again. Valbrand grabs Renan under the arm and drags him out of the hut. The drunkard calls out: „Hey, let me go! Maeveen… I didn’t mean what I said this morning!“

„It’s not about this morning“, the blacksmith cooly replies.

Renan continues to complain, but he’s too drunk to put up a fight. The two men grabs his arms and frogmarch him towards the village square. When one of the other villagers asks them what they are doing, Valbrand gives him an angry look and tells him that he’s investigating something and needs to question Renan - which shuts the villager up instantly. Once they arrive at the village square, they notice Bran, the village idiot, who casually walks towards them, taps Renan on the shoulder and on the side of his head and whispers: „Tag… you’re it“, after which he immediately runs off. Valbrand looks at him as he’s running away and mumbles: „Possessed man… can’t believe they let him live here!“ Saroc and Maeveen drag Renan to the penitent’s cell in the chapel and lock him up, while Valbrand goes to talk to Judoc, the captain of the guard, who has just returned from the woods.

Judoc addresses him first: „Sir Valbrand, what is going on here? Have you found the girl?“

„Yes, she is… walk with me, please.“ They start walking in such a way that others can’t hear what they’re saying. „She has been found at the bank of a nearby creek. It seems she has been hit on the head with a rock and was left to drown. She survived, but… well, Nikolas is tending to her and I pray that she will live. I have reason to suspect that Renan was involved - his footprint matched the ones found at the crime scene. He was also one of the people who knew where she was staying for the night and we have reason to believe she knew her attacker and walked with him for some time before she ran from him.“

„And what’s your plan?“

„My intention is to keep him in the penitent’s cell, so he does not flee. And I will… interrogate him at a later point.“ When the captain nods, he asks: „Tell me, have you had problems with this man before?“

Judoc shrugs: „He’s a well-known drunkard.“

„Problems of the more violent type?“

„Well, when he’s drunk he sometimes causes a ruckus at the Smiling Cat tavern. But violence? Not so much.“

Valbrand nods: „I see. Did the girl have any enemies? Maybe I have been looking in the wrong direction.“

Judoc laughs: „I’m sorry, but I don’t know anything about the teenage quarrels…“

„I know very few teenage quarrels that end up with nearly killing someone.“

The captain of the guard nods: „True.“

They part ways and Valbrand and Saroc go back to Renan’s hut to search the place. They don’t find anything of interest though. Fortunately Saroc had the presence of mind to remove Renan’s boots so they now match them against the drawing he made of the footprints in the woods - they’re a perfect match.

Maeveen looks at Valbrand: „You do know that this only proves that the boots were at the crime scene, not the person in the boots.“

Valbrand nods: „Yes, but he is the only suspect we have. But do you have any other suggestions, Maeveen?“

„Not right now.“

„Then I thank you for your suggestions. I do not wish to get put on a single track, but he is the most logical suspect.“

„Almost too logical. Perfect scapegoat.“

„Crime is of full of passion, the criminals driven by their passions. And these deficiencies do show themselves openly…“

***


Next morning comes and all members of the group except Morwenna, who lives too far away from the village, are awakened from their slumber by the toiling of the church bell - it is sounding an alarm this morning though. They quickly rise from their beds and realize that Maraizh’s house is burning - in fact, only one room of the mayor’s house is on fire. Valbrand directs the villagers to form a bucket line, while Judoc is doing the same. The villagers act very disciplined and after only a short while the fire is extinguished. Maraizh is standing in front of what once was his study, arms put to the side and staring at the soot-covered beams.

„Mayor, I’m glad you’re alive“, Valbrand says.

„All lost! All lost!“

„It’s just a study“, Maeveen tells him.

„All my work - lost!“

„It’s just things…“

„I should’ve known that someone like you wouldn’t understand“, he snaps at the blacksmith.

Valbrand starts walking through the ruins of the room and notices a very weird chemical smell hanging in the air: „This is a foul wind. What has burned here?“ Nikolas meanwhile walks over to the mayor and asks: „What were you working on?“

„None of your business!“

Valbrand gestures for Nikolas to join him in the remains of the study, while he tries to find the source of the smell - it seems though that the whole room smells of it without a distinct point of origin. „What do you think this is? Someone using some kind of Naphtha?“ Both he and Nikolas can’t identify the smell - while Saroc immediately recognizes the smell of burnt Flux.

Nikolas turns to Maraizh: „Do you have any idea what started the fire?“ When the mayor shakes his head, Nikolas inquires further, but the mayor snaps at him: „I said I don’t know, dammit!“ Maeveen mumbles: „Oh… touchy!“

Saroc takes Nikolas aside: „Look, he’s upset about the fire, leave him alone for a while. He’ll come around.“

This is when Maraizh spots Saroc: „Hey, Saroc! A word!“

„Yes, mayor, of course. I just need to relieve myself first, I woke up to the sound of the toiling bell… I’m just gonna go in the woods for a walk.“

Valbrand meanwhile is still searching the ruins of the study trying to figure out just what that smell is. He notices that everything in the burnt-out room is tainted by the smell - wherever he goes the smell is hanging in the air thickly, almost as if the entire study was coated with the stuff that burnt here. Valbrand figures that this is not a normal smell, so he makes note of that. He turns to Maraizh: „So, mayor, there is no reason to investigate this according to you?“

„No“, Maraizh tells him curtly. „Right now there isn’t.“ He seems to be anxiously waiting for Saroc to return.

***


Morwenna, who is still asleep in her hut, has a nightmare: she is standing at the foot of the hill with the razed stone circle on top. There is a shadow hanging over the stones and incredibly ancient eyes are looking at her, seemingly drawing her in, intent on devouring her…

***


After a couple of minutes Saroc returns from the woods. He stands a bit away from the village and tries to catch Maraizh’s attention. The mayor notices him, but walks off in a different direction… only to appear behind Saroc a short while later, which makes Saroc immediately draw his dagger and jump a meter backwards, calling: „The fuck, don’t do that, I could’ve fuckin’ stabbed you!“

„I could stab you! The stupid candle you sold me exploded during the night!“

„How’d you know it was my candle?“

„Because I was using it! Suddenly it burst and that… stuff got everywhere! And then it ignited.“

„What were you doing with it?“

„I was removing one of the cartridges. I needed one of them.“

„It needed to have sat for at least three days!“

„You didn’t tell me that!“

„You should know that by now, we’ve been dealing with each other long enough that you know you’re not supposed to do anything with the cartridges for three days after I delivered them!“

„I could have you arrested for this!“

„Yeah, but then you’d be arrested too, if they find out what’s going on!“

„No-one would believe you. I’m the mayor of this village and you’re just a Reizhite trader.“

„But then you wouldn’t have any replacements for what you’re looking for.“

„Bah, I would find someone else.“

„No-one’s as good as me.“

„You get me a new candle and I won’t have you arrested.“

Saroc sighs: „Alright. Next trip I’ll sort one out for you anyway.“

After hearing this Maraizh leaves without saying a word. Saroc curses silently at his business partner.

***


Nikolas returns to his practice and checks on Elena: her body seems to recover, but she is still comatose. Her father is again kneeling next to her, holding her hand and whispering to her, while Barba is preparing some tea in Nikolas’ study. Nikolas thinks that Elena will soon be well enough that she can be transported to her parents’ house and makes arrangements for the transport to be conducted during the evening. After that he decides to pay Morwenna a visit and walks through the forest to her hut, where he knocks on the door. From inside a scream can be heard - Morwenna incorporated the knocking in her nightmare. After a short while, she gets up, while Nikolas calls out: „Are you alright, Morwenna? What’s wrong?“

Morwenna pants heavily and then answers him: „Yeah, I’m fine… give me a moment.“ She quickly gets dressed and then opens the door: „I just had the worst dream… err, that’s not true… I just had a really horrible nightmare! It is about the place we saw… there was a shadow and there were eyes!“

„Wait, wait, wait! What a coincidence, that’s exactly the thing I wanted to discuss with you! I had a dream the other night and it was about the stone circle!“

„Really?“

„Yes, and I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. It’s already very hazy and I don’t remember the details… but I remembered that you mentioned talking about dreams… and that’s why I came here this morning.“

Morwenna offers Nikolas a cup of tea, which he gladly accepts, and asks: „So, can you remember any details at all?“

Nikolas sits down and after a short while says: „It was just so vivid… and it had something to do with the stone circle… but tell me about your dream first, Morwenna.“

„Well, there was the stone circle… and that huge black shadow hanging over it… and there were eyes… and somebody was watching me… that can’t mean anything good… something’s gonna happen, I don’t like it at all…“ She pauses. „What do you think it means? The shadow in particular?“

„I don’t know… I don’t think I saw a shadow in my dream…“

„No eyes? No one was watching you?“

„No… I had the impression something was there… but I’m not sure… you think there’s a message hidden in these dreams?“

„Yeah… I think we should go back.“

„Well, something has already happened, right?“

„I think something else is going to happen… maybe we should get at least Saroc and - I can’t believe I’m saying this - maybe Valbrand as well…“

„Maybe others in the village also had similar dreams. We should ask them.“

„I would be careful talking about stuff like this when Valbrand is around… just saying.“

„True… I’m just wondering, maybe some of the kids who went to the circle also had similar dreams… but you’re right, we should be careful.“

„Maybe we should also talk to Maeveen… I’ve known her long enough to really trust her. She really saved my life, in a certain way.“

„This tea tastes great, by the way. What’s the secret ingredient?“

„There is none. You just prepare it with love!“

Nikolas blushes and takes another sip. After chatting for a little longer they both return to the village.

***


Back at the village Valbrand is talking to Maeveen: „Maeveen, we talked about Renan yesterday. You said it was too… convenient.“

„I said it was a possibility.“

„If it were, there needs to be someone who knows of his boots, knows of our position and be willing to combine this with a single-minded willingness to murder. Who in this village is like that?“

„I’d love to say no-one, but… I have no idea.“ She pauses. „To be perfectly honest, you seem the most capable one here, but, err… you were… err, no.“

„I was with you at the smithy, so unless I have suddenly learned to find my way through dark woods I don’t think I would’ve made it in time.“

Valbrand then goes to the penitent’s cell, accompanied by Maeveen and Saroc. He is hoping that Maeveen, who knows the drunkard better than he does, can detect when he’s lying. Renan seems to have sobered up and is sitting in the cell. Valbrand walks up to the door of the cell: „Renan! Do you know why you’re confined here?“ The drunkard only bows mockingly but doesn’t respond, so Valbrand repeats the question.

Renan shrugs: „I have no clue.“

„Where were you two nights ago?“

„I was with Feyre.“

„How convenient, being with a girl who can’t speak. She will vouch for this?“

„I think her father saw me.“

„At what time was this?“

„Late evening.“

„Had darkness set in yet?“

„Maybe… maybe not.“

„Too drunk to remember?“

„No… just not interested in this whole affair… why should I pay attention to the time of day?“

„What did you do after that?“

„I went home. And that’s all I did.“

All three of them have been watching Renan carefully - Maeveen thinks that he is telling the truth, while Valbrand is not quite sure whether he’s lying or not. Saroc meanwhile is sure the young man is lying - something about what he says just doesn’t add up. He manages to catch Valbrand’s attention and gives a tiny little shake with the head. The Blade Knight turns to Renan again: „I do not believe you.“

„I’m crushed, Sir Knight… utterly crushed.“

„You might be. It is one of the possible punishments for murder.“ He leans forward. „Your bootprints were found near the location of the youngsters’ hideout in the forest. Were you there?“

„My bootprints? From the boots you took from me?“ When Valbrand nods, he smiles: „But these aren’t my boots, Sir Knight! They belong to Bran. He gifted them to me yesterday morning.“ Maeveen tries to remember if Renan wore the boots yesterday morning, when she talked to him - she only remembers that he was wearing boots though, but not what they looked like.

Valbrand stares intently at the young man: „Your choice of character and character witnesses in general is very questionable - someone who cannot speak, someone who is mad…“

„I’m terribly sorry, but I have unusual friends.“

„I thought you said Bran wasn’t your friend“, Maeveen inquires.

„Maybe that’s why he gifted me those shoes.“

„Was that why he was angry at you yesterday?“

„Maybe…“

Valbrand takes over again: „What is your relationship to Elena?“

„I’m one of her friends, and that’s it.“

„No more?“

„No more than that!“

Both Valbrand and Saroc think this time the man is telling the truth - Saroc looks at the knight and gives him a very slight nod. Valbrand continues: „So you’re telling me that you got the boots of a madman conveniently the day after…“

„What can I say, Sir Knight?“

„And you have no other means of defending yourself?“ When the man shrugs, Valbrand looks at him sternly: „You do know what this looks like?“

Renan simply shrugs again.

„Very well. Then I suggest you pray for Elena’s recovery and that she is able and willing to give her testimony. Because otherwise I don’t think you’ll be convincing anyone of your innocence!“ Valbrand then gives Renan a long look that says: ‚you’ll be punished for your crimes‘.

The drunkard simply stares back at the knight defiantly.

„May God have mercy on your soul.“ The Blade Knight turns around and leaves.

„Fuck off“, the drunkard yells at him.

***


Once Valbrand, Saroc and Maeveen have left the room, the knight looks at his companions: „This man plays us for fools! A madman and a mute as witnesses!“

„Well, he did mention the father“, Saroc replies. „At least we could investigate that.“

As the three of them are talking, Nikolas and Morwenna arrive at the village and spot their companions leaving the chapel. They quickly join them and Nikolas asks: „Any news?“

„Renan has given his testimony“, Valbrand sneers. „It’s about as trustworthy as the man himself seems to be. He claims that Bran handed him the boots yesterday morning. He also claims that he spent the night with Feyre, the mute girl. I think her father can tell us more, Renan claims he was spotted by him. But aside from that he was unwilling to tell us anything.“

Morwenna shakes her head: „I don’t believe those boots were… no, that doesn’t make any sense.“

„It is possible, but it seems… convenient to blame the madman.“ Valbrand nods.

„He’s not mad, only… misunderstood“, Morwenna mumbles. And just as she says that, Bran comes walking around the corner and straight towards the group. Nikolas immediately notices that the village idiot is wearing mud-encrusted boots.

„If one speaks of the devil…“, Valbrand mutters. He looks at the madman: „Bran, that is your name, correct?“

Bran’s head snaps towards Valbrand. He carefully approaches the Blade Knight, touches his coat and starts stroking it gently.

„Are you the one they call Bran?“ Valbrand feels slightly uncomfortable.

„Bran! My name is Bran!“

„Did you give your boots to Renan yesterday?“

„I’d love to give him the boot!“

„Did you give him yours?“

„I gave my boot to everyone…“

„A madman…“, Valbrand mumbles again. He looks Bran: „Where were you two nights ago?“

There’s a long pause until the madman answers: „I was walking towards the pond…I wanted to see the sapling myself!“

„Make sense, man! What are you on about?“

Bran gives Valbrand a concerned look: „There’s a shadow hanging over your head, Sir Knight… it is crushing you…“ Nikolas gives Morwenna a quick glance when Bran mentions the shadow.

„I fear no shadow for the lord walks with me.“

„There’s a shadow hanging over Renan’s head as well.“

„What kind of shadow“, Morwenna inquires.

„It is seeping inside his head… I can see it. It is seeping into everything…“ He looks straight at Morwenna suddenly: „Eyes on the hill!“ With that he happily dances away.

„Madman! Useless.“ Valbrand curses again and looks at his companions. Nikolas turns to Morwenna and stares at her wide-eyed, while she says to Valbrand: „He’s not useless, just a little different.“

The knight shakes his head: „He does not help us in finding the one behind the attack on Elena. And I see no other purpose a mind like his could serve. I take pity on him, but…“

„I don’t think he needs your pity.“

„Perhaps… blessed are they, for they know not what they do. Forgive them.“ He sighs. „But this does not solve the problem.“

Saroc suggests: „Let’s go speak to Feyre’s father.“

The others agree and they walk off towards the bakery.
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