Ulric

Raphael and Ulric

Setting out surrounded by a thick Cumberland mist, the group avoid the main roads, attempting to put as many miles between them and Carlisle as possible whilst the light lasts.

After several hours with each in silent contemplation and with most of the escapees approaching exhaustion, Calais finally calls a halt as dusk settles. Not risking a campfire, Raphael shares his rations with the men and whilst the food is tough and past its best, each is glad to have an alternative to the grim fare offered up in the dungeons.

Adopting a business like tone, Calais breaks the silence introducing herself and providing a very basic explanation of her heritage before warning that they are all in grave danger whilst traveling in her company. She intends to split the company at dawn and asks each to consider their plan.

In return each of the five thanks both Raphael and Calais for their support and provide formal introductions of their own. Sebastian of Lincoln is a Templar assigned to protect a group of priests assigned to Carlisle Cathedral for a sabbatical in their spiritual learning. Two of the survivors from the original group are priests. One is Luke, the big priest who lent his weight to the escape only 24hrs earlier. The second is Francis, an older man with warm hazel eyes, content to listen rather than speak most of the time.

Of the other three, two are from Carlisle. Selwin is a guardsman of the city and has family close at hand. He states his intention of returning to his village until the King sends reinforcements (as surely he must) to drive out the Irish, elven scourge. The other is also a member of the city guard. Ulric is a handsome youth and well spoken. He offers Raphael the Sithe blade back having been temporarily gifted the weapon shortly after the battles of the previous day. Raphael invites the youth to keep the weapon.

The group agree on shifts of two hours before everyone save for Calais and Raphael bed down for the night, the Inquisitor taking the first shift. Sitting slightly above the dell in which the camp is situated, the two quietly discuss the events of the previous day. It appears that Calais was able to successfully enter the keep observing a late night meeting between three of the Scarack Filidh and the Sheriff of Cumberland, Roger de Vallibus. It is quickly made evidently clear in the overheard conversation that de Vallibus is party to the treachery by which the city of Carlisle fell so easily into enemy hands. Furthermore, he is promised continued power after the war has come to a ‘successful fruition.’ Of the Filidh, the arrogant and cocksure Conlai is called upon to deal with a disturbance in the dungeons shortly after the arrival of Calais. The remaining two are the disproportionately large Sithe warrior, known colloquially as ‘The Pulse.’ Calais is able to discern that it is the Pulse who is responsible for feeding de Vallibus orders and is in command. This intelligent, scheming figure casts an intimidating shadow over proceedings, the threat of his enchanted drum ever present. Mara Mal Keth is a sorcerer and with an owl sat on her shoulder seems little bothered by the details of the discussion preferring to feed the watchful creature. Not long afterward the owl seems to sense a presence in the room and preferring not to reveal her true power, Calais makes her way silently from the chambers, though she is quickly able to sense that she is being followed by the sorcerer. Quickening her pace and abandoning stealth, (having discovered what she came for) Calais goes on to describe her escape from the castle, outdistancing her pursuit though she is also forced to kill two Sithe guards who unexpectedly bar her way as she slips through the kitchens and out over the walls behind the keep itself.

Tracking back around the perimeter of the castle, Calais makes her way to the sewer outlets just as Berenguier is assailed by what appears to be globes of darkness. Arriving too late the knight explodes, metal shrapnel impaling his assailants, killing one and injuring two others. In fury, Calais summons a deadly lightning attack with bolts descending seemingly from the heavens killing both remaining Sithe attackers. Approaching the scorched earth, she notices a third figure scuttling into the sewers and noting the fiddle strapped to his back, Calais presumes that it is Conlai diving for safety. However concerned for the safety of the Inquisitor, Calais chooses not to pursue. Instead, she makes certain that further reinforcements have not been sent, skirting the city walls before making her way cross country via a deliberately haphazard route to shake off any potential pursuit.

Her story finished Calais predicts that her involvement and particularly her summoning of an ancient destructive spell is likely to provoke the Scarack out from Carlisle. A confrontation between the two is likely to be hugely destructive and hence Calais encourages Raphael to make his own way back to Netherby.

Raphael tells his tale in full with Calais once again reiterating that it was her plan that failed and that he should not recriminate himself for the mishap in the dungeons. She also points out that Berenguier travelled to England so as to combat the Filidh. He died honorably in defence of his art and values, his ceremonial armour imploding upon his death taking at least one Sithe with him.

The following morning the group goes its separate ways until only Raphael, Ulric and Calais remain. Raphael outlines his concern for the safety of Calais asking her how she will cope if the entire Filidh hand hunt her down. Calais reassures him that she will attempt to team up with Ross and his men so that she has allies in the forestlands. Before leaving, Raphael also asks if there is anyway that her prophecy of a Fellowship member dying in the snow can be avoided? Calais responds by pointing out that in the old religions ‘death must be sated…in avoiding the death of one, it will claim another close at hand.’ Not terribly reassured by this response, Raphael asks one final question:

‘Will we ever meet again?’

Calais stares into space her eye for once a passive almost normal hue.

‘I am impaired in seeing the future for the Scarack has clouded my vision. But I hope so Manzio.’

Reluctantly turning to the open countryside, deliberately avoiding the Carlisle road, Raphael and Ulric set out for Netherby. The Inquisitor is deep in thought considering the parting comments of Calais and her deliberate choice of naming in Manzio when the weather begins to change quite dramatically. At first a wind begins howling in from the north. This is followed by dark, ominous storm clouds…the horses begin to react nervously. Before long the conditions have become treacherous and the two are forced to seek cover under a copse of twisted old trees. Whilst waiting to continue Ulric tells Raphael that they are less than a day from the Eden Bridge and then another day to reach the fort. However he is concerned that the bridge represents the obvious location for an ambush. Concerned for Ulric’s safety, Raphael gives him the blinding strike powder instructing the youth in its use.

After waiting for nearly an hour the storm seemingly abating a little, the two continue on their way, wrapped in sodden blankets and slowly picking a path across country. It is late afternoon when they finally see the fast flowing River Eden. Raphael chooses to approach the bridge alone to spy out any potential threat. Leaving the horses with Ulric, the Inquisitor carefully picks his way down the muddy bank attempting to get a better view of the bridge in the distance. As his view changes, it is apparent that a group of figures appear to be shambling in his direction coming from the bridge. There is something about the gait of the figures that triggers a memory. Zombies! Unpleasant memories of his trip north many months ago return and the necromancy of the Kurgen sorcerers. Beyond the zombies he sees a camp situated close to the base of the bridge. Likewise a second camp is situated across the bridge. Trying to get a better estimate of numbers, Raphael notes that two animated dogs have begun to sense his presence and begin increasing speed coming in his direction. Abandoning stealth, Raphael clambers quickly up the river bank his boots a blur of motion before returning to the rendezvous site with Ulric, the desiccated hounds close behind. Mounting their horses, Raphael notices that a contingent of horses has also left the camp on his side of the river, clearly making in the direction of his position. Beginning to panic and once again horribly outnumbered, Ulric suggests that they make for some forestland about 2 miles away from their position. Riding hard and risking a slip from one or other of the horses in the treacherous conditions, they make the relative safety of the forest riding as far as they can before the undergrowth makes their progress impossible. Tethering the horses to a tree trunk, Ulric nimbly climbs a tree close at hand, disappearing beneath the low hanging foliage whilst gaining a strong aerial position. Likewise, Raphael also begins to climb but given the rainfall and slippery nature of his tree trunk, he slips halfway but is able to tumble on his fall avoiding any injuries.

Suddenly he hears voices close at hand and is forced to take cover behind the tree he had been trying unsuccessfully to climb. Waiting for his moment and retrieving his crossbow, the Inquisitor edges around the base of the tree, seeing a Sithe elf dressed in rustic woodland leathers of green and brown making his way silently through the wood. The tall, wiry tracker has clearly found the trail of the horses and communicates this discovery to the others in his group with a remarkably authentic bird call. Risking a shot before the others arrive, Raphael levels his crossbow firing from the cover of his tree. However, the bolt is poorly aimed and whistles harmlessly wide. Diving for cover, the elf disappears behind a tree of his own, a short standoff ensuing. Whilst the Inquisitor considers his options, another Sithe voice, this one a little further away shouts out a warning:

‘Pull back, pull back…the wraith is come.’

Fearing what this warning could mean, Raphael risks another glance and sees a horrible dark apparition emerge from the gloomy depths of the forest. Facing him with twin, malevolent flames raging beneath a metallic mask, the creature effortlessly draws a huge, wicked looking greatsword, barely breaking his stride as the ground between the two is rapidly closed. Terrified by this opponent, Raphael feels a moment of freezing cold grip his chest, his cloak of office frosting and his chest chilled to the bone.

Painfully, Raphael reaches for his ring of invisibility, slipping it on his finger before rapidly sprinting deeper into the forest.

Ulric

Albion Andrew_Brereton iwilliamson