Since I won’t be around next weekend, and Tammy may or may not be up for much talking, we figured that blue booking the Captain and Lieutenant’s pilgrimage up to Crow’s Head Mountain (did I get the name right? I think I did…) could be handled via a bit of blue booking; but first, a few questions for Bill…
The trip up the mountain? you said 5 days, is that on foot? or horseback? If foot, is it possible to make some of the pilgrimage on horseback and leave the horses at a small town or way point? I assume that, up to a certain point, there are stops or spontaneous ‘towns’ along the way?
Also, future plans for the Lady Isobelle, aside from her aspirations to put a hand in every aspect of the Barony to keep an eye on things with a solid network of spies, on a personal level her path seems to be taking her down one of faith. Perhaps it was standing face to face with a demon, perhaps it’s a subconscious need to fill the void her husband left. . . But the character seems to be evolving into a Paladin (of the non-spell casting variety, we have enough of those in the party). Heck, reading the Paladin Code Of Honor in the PDFs Bill sent out she’s practically there in deed already.
Isobelle leaves instructions with Laurel that Wytherie is welcome in the manor during her absence and is a guest to be treated as other nobility would. She also sends a letter off to her father in Shelinsibeau, which I’ll write and sand off to you soon Bill.
Crow’s Head Mountain: This mighty peak rises out of the middle of the Platinum Hills, and marks the burial spot for Durom I. It is a holy site for the Trinity, and many pilgrims visit every year. There is a small church built into the side of the mountain, and it is said that the catacombs beneath the temple pierce deep into the heart of the earth. The mountain got its unusual name because of a distinctive rock formation at the top of the mountain that looks, from the proper angle, like the silhouette of a crow’s head. (Crows are considered a symbol of good luck in much of the West, and are thought to sometimes ferry messages to and from the afterlife).
The pilgrimage is traditionally taken on foot, but you could take the first half of it on horseback; after about two days, the trail gets too narrow, steep, and rocky for all but the most sure-footed horses. That would save about a day’s travel each way. There aren’t really any towns on the route, but there are waystations along the path where pilgrims can stay overnight. The accomodations are poor, but comfortable enough.
Lady Isobelle believes the walk won’t be so harsh that a horse will be needed to take off a day’s travel. Also, we have a side stop to make for the Lieutenant’s benefit.
The pilgrimage to Crow’s Head Mountain is usually taken on foot. Pilgrims traditionally wear a plain gray hooded robe along their journey, and carry little or nothing of value apart from a walking staff and a knife for protection. Everyone who takes the pilgrimage is expected to follow the traditions, whether you are a king or a commoner.
The way is not easy nor is it meant to be. Some people have talked about improving the trail to the mountain, but most of the faithful resist this idea, so it remains little more than a simple footpath, weaving up and up through the hills. It’s a tough climb and it takes most folks four or five days to reach the temple. A healthy and determined person could probably do it in less time, but the journey is meant to be a time of contemplation and faith, not a race to the top.
Isobelle will meet Niamh at her place to start off their journey. Unless given cause to do otherwise and being a morning person, she shows up fairly early dressed as most pilgrims, in a gray robe, and a small pack with hardtack and jerkey for food, unarmed as well.
Niamh is usually wake before dawn as that’s when she does her devotions, so she’d be ready when Lady Hawthorne arrives. Niamh is also dressed in pilgrim garb and pack. She has a walking staff. Her truncheon is hidden under her robes. She’s familiar with the path up to the first day up the mountain, that’s as far as she’s gone. Her family’s graves are a few hours off the path at that point. Since it’s Lady Hawthorne’s pilgrimage, Niamh’s happy to follow her lead as to if they continue up the mountain first or detour.
Isobelle believes that paying respects to one’s family shouldn’t wait, and suggests they detour first to allow Niamh the time she needs with her family. “The mountain will be there tomorrow, as well.”
11 Birdsong, 960 RM
The day dawns bright, cool, and clear. Lady Hawthorne and Niahm are among the first people to leave Foxtown through the Platinum Gate that morning, and have the road mostly to themselves as they head westward up into the hills. They pass through a number of small villages; the inhabitants pay little heed to the pilgrims as they pass through. The road is well-maintained for most of the trek, but as the climb gets steeper the road becomes more of a simple wagon trail, and then shrinks down to little more than a well-trodden footpath.
Niahm remembers the way to her family’s graves. The side path is marked by a huge old lightning-scarred cottonwood. They turn off the trail and follow a stream deeper into the hills. Twilight is already upon them by the time they arrive.
Niamh leads Lady Hawthorne into a clearing. In the center is a small cairn, about the size of small house. There is a tall oak tree at the base and a “door” facing them. “This is the final resting place of my grandmother, Bri, and my mother, Arwyn. When my time comes, I plan to join them.” Niamh takes off her pack and stretchs. “We can camp here for the night. At dawn, there’s a couple of rituals I’ll do and then we can continue on. If you’re interested, I can tell you some of the tales my mother told me about my grandmother.”
Isobelle removes her own pack, “I am very interested in the tales of your grandmother.” She said sitting down and resting from the days travels. She took in the area, “This is a peaceful place to make ones final rest.”
As Niamh started setting up camp she started her story. “According to my mother, Grandmother Bri was never one to stay in one place for long. She had traveled all over Kalon before my mother was born and even fought giants in Fleetwood Forest.” Niamh handed Lady Hawthorne a cup of tea. “Grandmother Bri did not even stay long after Arwyn was born, leaving the girl with her father while she traveled to Demoria. Thirty years ago, Grandmother Bri made a name for herself here also fighting giants. This time she had help, teaming up with the legendary Balph the Giantslayer (where he earned his name) and the then Crown Prince Durom here in the Platinum Hills. After five years in Demoria, she returned to Kalon, collected her nine-year-old daughter, and returned to Demoria to continue exploring the country. My mother had inherited Bri’s wanderlust so enjoyed traveling the country in a wagon my grandfather had made. Just before I was born, Grandmother Bri took ill and died. This place had already been prepared and my mother laid Grandmother Bri to rest.” Niamh paused and looked into her cup, “Since my mother died, I’ve tried to come here once a year. My own pilgrimage to serve my penitence.”
Lady Hawthorne listens and drinks the offered tea. She raises an eyebrow at the last words, “I wouldn’t imagine you would need to serve any penance. But I am not overly familiar with your beliefs.” She seemed concerned at Niamh’s words.
Niamh smiled a little. “Not that I’ve committed a major sin, just a personal failing. My mother died alone. By the time I received word she was ill and reached Miller’s Creek, I was three days too late. I was barely in time to stop the miners from burning her body. My failing was not telling her that for all my complaining and tantrums, I really did not hate her for the life we had, nor do I regret how we lived. I did not have the chance to apologize for my behavior either.”
Isobelle looked off in the distance for a moment, “She knew, maybe not in words.” Isobelle looked at her cup of tea, “Perhaps you should visit more often, celebrate who she was, and not what wasn’t.” Isobelle offered up.
“I try, but it is not easy finding the time to come up here.” Niamh looked up at the darking sky. “It’s been a long day, and I think the going gets tougher the further up we get. We’d best get what rest we can.”
“Agreed.” Isobelle rinses the cup and, not for the first time, wonders if she weren’t more suited to a lifestyle of less luxury and more road.
*12 Birdsong, 960 RM *
The next day again dawns clear and bright, and the women are off on the road again as the first rays of the sun touch the stones of the O’Derry cairn. They backtrack back to the Pilgrim’s Trail, then continue west, climbing higher and higher up into the hills. The mountains are beautiful and wild and empty, with few signs of people other than the trail itself and the numerous simple roadside shrines that previous pilgrims have built along the way.
As the day wears on, though, the two women gradually get that strange, prickly feeling on the backs of their necks, as though some unseen observer were watching them. There’s no one around, but the woods are deep and the hills are steep, so there are plenty of places for someone who wanted to remain hidden to do so.
When Lady Hawthorne woke Niamh for the second watch, the feeling of being watched returned. Shining torches around, the two women see the light reflecting from several eyes. A pack of wolves was just outside the camp, but left as the torchlight revealed them.
13 through 15 Birdsong, 960 RM
The following few days continue much the same. The weather is pleasant, but the feeling of being watched continues. Every so often the women spot a wolf following them, but on second glance, the creature is gone. “This is where the chimera must have frightened the pack Master Gunn was tracking.” Niamh commented. “I think you are correct.” Lady Hawthorne agreed.
The only change was a rainstorm the night of 15 Birdsong.
16 Birdsong, 960 RM
Although the night had pelted the two women with rain, the dawn broke through the clouds and promised a sunny, if humid day. The closer the two women came to Crow’s Head Mountain, the fewer sightings they had of the wolves. There were more signs of pilgrims and civilization. Just before mid-day they reached the base of the mountain. Niamh stays at the bottom to set up camp while Lady Hawthorne ascended to the temple.
There were steps carved into the mountain, with several stops depicting the life of Durom the First. At the top of the step was a large open temple with priest attending to the praying pilgrims. Lady Hawthorne felt the reverence of the place. It was said that the bones of the great hero were somewhere in the catacombs under the temple. Lady Hawthorne spends the rest of the day in prayer and contemplation, not descending until after sundown.
The pilgrims at the base of the mountain built a large bonfire that everyone shared along with the evening meal. Lady Hawthorne encountered a group of pilgrims from Shelinsibeau and spends the evening talking with her countrymen.
17 Birdsong, 960 RM
The next morning, Lady Hawthorne told Niamh that she wanted to climb to the very top of the mountain, as the view would not be something to miss. Niamh joins her, also wanting to see the view. The top of the mountain was deserted save for a small shrine. The view is indeed spectacular, with a wide panoramic view of the Platinum Hills. The landscape is green with the new growth of spring. Lady Hawthorne left a small offering at the shrine and the two women descended to the base.
Lady Hawthorne is pleased with her time here and the next morning the two women would begin the trip back to Foxtown.