So it was that Martaine Quarrier, a man of Winchester, set off on a trip from his home town, via a transport circle to Exeter and then ran hard for twelve hours into the darkness and unknown (and unsafe) territory bearing an important message…. Martaine Quarrier
“I staggered up to the gate guard at a run; well wouldn’t you with a dark forest full of unliving snapping at your heels, especially once three pairs of glowing red eyes appeared in front of you out of the darkness. The thick mud at the bridge and fatigue of making a two day journey in less than one at a run led to the gate guards being faced with a breathless, mud splattered and spitting man brandishing a sword. In retrospect it comes as quite a surprise that I was allowed into the camp at all – however they accepted me at my word, and I was helped to the Command Tent.
Gasping for breath I managed to deliver my message to Hawkeye and then I collapsed onto a pallet, glad to be in the warm, thankful that I had not lost the folded parchment on the run. back1 wondered how long it was going to be before someone offered me a drink. A couple of madge tinkerers approached, but once I had explained that I had handed over all my money and my grandfather’s sword to bribe transport via the circle half an hour before my companions they lost interest and went to make fine eyes at the warriors.
I was tired – I was indeed as I had forgotten to inform the command and the gate guard about the two who followed – with a second copy of the message and some extra assistance of the magical variety. Over the next couple of minutes, while searching for some Mahometan Gruel I established that the camp was under attack by a number of wraiths (corrupted spirits in non-corporeal form who could slay with a single blow!). They had somehow got a hold of… no, I don’t know you that well – fight by my side for a while and I’ll tell you that bit of the story when we’re safely out of battle, until then there are bits of this story that I’ll wait for better than I to tell before repeating to any soul!
Anyway, it wasn’t long before we saw glowing red eyes in the darkness approaching our position, I was more than ready to panic at that moment, but it was quickly explained that we had some sort of protection that prevented these dark creatures from entering the tent. Even so a number of our warriors went out to face the creatures and were struck down with single blows – even our better equipped first rank warriors were unable to hurt these unliving things. More than once I had to dash out into the darkness to heal or help drag back the downed heroes.
Soon the wraiths realised that they could not enter our tent and tried more subtle strategies to lure us to our deaths. Waves of lesser unliving approached – their weapons were able to enter the safe confines of the tent and so they had to be dealt with – soon the wraiths were back in amongst the zombies and skeletons and so the healing went on. Soon I was out of healing power, unable to stand, certainly ill-equipped to fight, so I curled up in a quiet corner and waited to die or greet the dawn.
The dawn came, and with it a mission to try and find the barrow or resting place of the wraiths by daylight – we had no way of knowing whether our defence would hold another night and if we had not had the command tent protected then all would surely have perished.
It was a hard journey to the barrow that one of the local spies had told the command about – there were several waves of unliving who needed to be dealt with and a certain resistance to my claims to be a scout. How could I convince them I wondered, while watching the treelines for any unfriendly movement. Arriving at the barrow the incantors checked the mound for any signs of the unliving, and lots of other reasonable precautions were taken. Lord Hugo and Scallion of the Beastmen were first into the mound, but just as I looked away to check the quarters for movement again something happened that I am embarrassed to relate – I suddenly found myself fleeing in panic – it was the red eyes in the darkness again – they were after me – I had to find somewhere to hide – and, but wait it was daylight, there were no red eyes, a voice behind shouted “Who dares to desecrate my tomb?” and suddenly the movement I had been looking for began – they were coming from every direction, and a huge spectre with a skeletal face and a polearm was felling my comrades and leaders left and right. I moved towards the warriors who were still standing when a skeletal figure burst from the ground in front of me – I looked down to my weapons belt – a sword (and not my grandfather’s one either) and decided that hacking uselessly at bone while this thing took of my armour and my limbs one slash at a time was not the best may to spend what remained of the morning, so I ran.
I’m good at running – that’s why they picked me for the mission in Winchester in the first place, and besides I think the unliving in question was to tired to give chase – particularly when there were more willing targets bearing down on it with hammers.
I dodged from place to place, applying bandages here, a little healing there, and eventually worked my way back to the Barrow where I found Lord Hugo (I believe it was) bleeding profusely, a little more healing and soon everyone was able to, at the very least, repair their armour, or wait for their paralysis to wear off without spilling too much of the red stuff.
We found a letter in the tomb which told us a couple of things. Basically we’d broken into the tomb of Rowena, a lady paladin who really shouldn’t have been disturbed. We found out the identity of the wraiths and the approximate location of a sword that would help us to defeat them.
There was a general call for scouts. “I’m a scout!”, I said, but no one believed me until, in a blinding flash my training came back to me and I gathered up all the knives and daggers I had and stuck them into my belt. Immediately I was accepted back into the dark-clad brotherhood whose motto is “First in, last out” and we started the search. Meanwhile nightfall fast approached…
After much crawling about in undergrowth and being quiet, we returned to the camp without the sword. I set about sharpening my daggers, preparing some burnt wine corks for taking the shine off my face that night (it being a half moon), and watching the smicket stickers, and catching a quick nap.
I must have dozed off for a while because I was soon called to muster with a group who went out to lay the disturbed tomb to rest. We didn’t meet much resistance and managed to get back to camp without much trouble (mainly because the bulk of our warriors turned up in the nick of time – followed shortly by the manifestation of Rowena – a ghost some said!
Rowena told us that she had sensed the patterns of two of our number actually touch her sword during the search. Shortly thereafter those in question set off into the twilight to finish what we had started earlier in the day.
I was assigned to a ‘rapid reaction force’ who were to go in if there was any signal. Some minutes later General Tarn and I went off to scout ahead – the number of times I almost lost sight of him even though he was scarcely a few feet in front of me was quite amazing. We caught up with our sword-hunters just as they were on their way back – there were a couple of zombies in the way, but they were quickly dispatched and we got back to the camp with a real feeling of satisfaction.
The celebrations were short lived, as by now it was definitely dark and the wraiths were surely on their way – would the defences hold – there was no way to tell. Nor any time as it turns out that Rowena’s sword had a mind of its own. Much struggling later and Hugo was charging off into the woods – much is to be said for the bravery, commitment, and sheer guts of those who followed close on his heels. As for me I watched them go and decided that I really ought to follow.
Strapping on my sword I raced across the muddy bridge into the trees. In the half minute it took me to reach the battle lines there were already people on the ground. I discharged the last of my healing power, gave up my sword to a magically disarmed warrior, and then went back for some potions and, well if you already know what I’m talking about then you’ll understand that it’s a vessel of healing, and if you don’t then best it stays that way.
This was my mistake. If I had stayed in the woods, and used some bandages then things would have turned out very differently – three people would still be alive and I wouldn’t have to live with my failure. Suffice it to say that once I had got back to the command tent, explained the situation and been given all that I needed to take to the needy, the shouts for “Healer!” were already ringing across the open ground from the black treeline. I set off at a run, but was soon surrounded by red eyes, rotting flesh, and skeletons. I can’t explain the fear – with that amount of adrenaline I should have been easily able to evade them – but I soon found myself back in the command tent, surrounded by the bodyguard who could not let me out for fear of those things getting in. I don’t know how long it took – it seemed like seconds, before I was able to slip out of the back of the tent and make a long run through the darkness and the mud to the bridge. Blindly running through the trees I fell a dozen times, blood and bruises that I hardly felt. Things moved and hissed at me – I hissed back hoping that I wasn’t going to get shot by one of our own. Then I started to come across the bodies – some injured, some paralysed – and some dead…
I healed those I found. Not knowing who was alive and who was dead, I have no idea who the fallen were – I had scarcely enough time to staunch their wounds before creatures came out of the dark and I had to run once more to the next shadow. Once the healing had run out I heard the re-enforcements coming and realised that I was out here, alone, and unarmed. I did something very unusual and I took a weapon from the hand of one of the fallen. I would not have seen it but his voice seemed to call out to me. I stood and waited for something to come – a friend or a foe, there was nothing more I could do but stand and wait…
The voice in my ear which said “Have you got a weapon?” belonged to General Tarn I handed over the hammer I had taken up and he disappeared into the darkness and I heard the sounds of unliving getting dismantled. I stumbled towards the bridge and met the rest of our forces.
I don’t remember much more – I helped carry the wounded to the bridge and then counted the forces back in. I was second to last home.
By now you’ll surely have heard about the deaths so I won’t say it again, but let me say this the three that died were true heroes, true Harts of Albion, and I shall remember them every fourth day of May for as long as I live.
The wraiths were dead, but still many tears were shed that night, and when I returned to my tent there was a thick frost over all of it – the very Cornish land was shedding frozen tears for Hawkeye or for all of them.
I didn’t sleep that much, but with the dawn the sun came out to shine over Rutterkins Woods for the first time since I had set eyes on them. The mud was drying and there were worms drying out in the early sun. I dug up a patch of wet mud and put it on top of one of the helpless creatures to give it some surcease from the heat, but a few minutes later I saw it again crawling back into the sun. I suppose that nature says to us “You can put off death, you can heal, but life is finite. Look at the turning of the seasons, birth, the sun and the moon, and the pattern of the known world itself”. At the time this made some sense, but after the march to Exeter and my eventual return to Winchester it has lost some of its meaning.
That day we rescued ‘Iggy’ – he was a strange orcish fellow who swore alot, and there was much shouting from the Bacchanals. We had completed our mission, done what was promised – a great leader once said “We will always be true to our word!”, and I would follow him into the very whiffles of the void if he would take me along, but in the meantime I shall return to my studies and do my best to sleep at night hoping that one day the nightmares of red eyes in the dark will subside, and the cries of help for those I failed will one day allow me the silence of forgiveness.”
Martaine Quarrier of Winchester, Here and Therian
 Quite a while
 They were selling *something* – work it out for yourself
 A ground roasted bean of some description, served with sugar and boiling water, it warms the heart and wakes and shakes the very pattern – the friend of late-night guards and early risers the known world over!
 It was either extremely well hidden, not there when we first looked, or we were standing around it saying “Has anyone seen anything that looks a bit like that?”
 See #2
a note by Hunter Stryker
in response to Martaine Quarrier’s account:
‘Tis well that we recognised you for a living soul and did not strike you down, but we had been forewarned that others may yet attempt the passage to the woods. I hope you will forgive the lack of courtesy shown on your arrival, though we were hard pressed and somewhat distracted by other events. The ladies you speak of comforted many during the long hours of darkness, and we had already lost two of our number before you arrived.
The two who followed were known to me and their aid was welcome. Indeed, I had been hoping that they would arrive earlier as I had expected at least the one. That I stood on guard that eve was fortuitous as the guard may have struck first at the sight of my friend, they being unaware of his commitment to Albion. No, I will not explain further, suffice it to say that this appearence is a little more striking than mine!
The Wraiths were a plague to us, and took one life as the bridge guard was forced to flee our posts. I witnessed your actions in healing the fallen, though there had been instruction issued that all should remain within the protection of the tent.
I believe that your declaration of being a scout were questioned more due to the armour you wore and your skills with healing. I, too, am a Scout and do wear heavy mail at times. I carry no daggers, but rather wield a hammer or axe. That I also use a crossbow is indication of a warrior, but scout I am and a scout I have become known to be.
This panic you felt is one we all were subjected to. I went up a tree with the fear that emanated from the Barrow. That I had to drop crossbow and hammer left me unable to do much until towards the end of the fight, especially as Pelleas had espied my hammer and made use of it against a skeleton.
I participated in all three searches of the glade we believed the sword to be resting in. Twice we entered the glade with good numbers of searchers, but no sign of the sword was to be found. I returned with s’Kallion and Varg, both of who had touched the sword during their searches, under cover of dark, hoping to remain undetected by any guardian or agent of the wraiths. This we succeeded with, though I went high to watch from above. Tarn was rather lucky that eve as, if I had with me my crossbow, I would have shot the shadowy form that entered the glade before I had realised it was he. You, too, may have been shot as I saw a second shadowy form await us by the entrace to the glade. It is well that circumstance protected us from this error.
Later that eve, it is my understanding that several were entranced by the sword and left to chase down the wraiths. I stayed with the ladies of Bacchus as we went to set a healing post by the bridge. As well I did as a wraith appeared and attacked us. We fled to the command tent, losing none to the wraith, but leaving the way open to the unliving that accompanied it. These kept us pinned in the tent and I admit not seeing you leave else I would have gone with you. I lost a good friend that night as Hawkeye was the leader of the Hawkshead and I was his second. Now I find that I must stand in his place and continue with his good work.
I thank you for your efforts, for one of those lives you did save was that of the champion of the Hawkshead. He, I believe, was near death and was recovered by yourself. Blame yourself not for the deaths of Hawkeye, Malthrax or the third who fell. I myself tried to enter the woods on several occasions and was nearly struck by our own. Twice I had to take to the trees to avoid groups of unliving, and I found not one person lying dead or injured though I came close to several.
I hope you find comfort soon. If not, I am sure that the Bacchus ladies would be happy to help (for a donation of course).
Sir Hunter Stryker
a note by Benedict Karlennon
in response to Martaine Quarrier’s account:
Let it be known that at Rutterkins Wood, on the first weekend of May, the following died in the service of Albion, ‘gainst the terror of the Unliving:
Guillium de Hawkeye, Duke of Cornwall
Malthrax of the Slayers, Bodyguard and friend to Hugo Charenten
Stomp Stompsson, Warrior of House Karlennon
Elrathlyon of the Hunters, Master Archer
Void of the Bacchus Bastards, Warrior
Let their names be remembered long.
But the dead are not the only ones owed thanks. The living fought long and hard, and their actions deserve recognition. Martaine Quarrier has mentioned many names I would have mentioned, but one he left off. His own. My personal thanks go to him for his actions on Sunday night.
Count Marchwood, Harts of Albion