We were out on manoeuvres for the first part of the day, so I didn't get back into camp until mid-afternoon to resume my normal activities. (OC, we had a monster slot from 10:00-12:00, then we were monstering the battle after that. Again, I'm using italics for my non-Cox experience.)
When I turned up at the ref hut, they divided us up into smaller groups. One group was going to handle the children's "linear"; I've heard of them, but never taken part in one before, so I volunteered for that. The key point about a linear is that it's very guided: you all turn up at point A and do something, then you all go to point B and do something else, etc. By contrast, the main LARP event has lots of things going on at once, so people can split up and wander off in different directions (e.g. visiting other camps). Also, the plot of the linear will be entirely resolved by the end, with no interruptions, whereas the main event has several overlapping plots (e.g. the ongoing tests in the Lions camp to choose a new Champion of Law).
In this case, I think it's fair to say that the linear was inspired by the Wizard of Oz. There were 2 characters called Dots and Totes: Dots was human (with dots all over her face), while Totes was beastkin (a dog/human hybrid). They'd taken a pair of seven league boots from a dead witch, but since they had to share that meant that they only got 1 boot each, so they were hopping around everywhere. The dead witch's sister recruited the children to track them down and reclaim the boots, with the promise of a reward at the end. The sister had a few goblin minions, including me: our job was to lurk around in the background, looking menacing but not actually attacking the kids.
Here's a picture of some of the team:
(Photo © Molly Crouchman, who was also the makeup artist.)
The nature of the linear meant that they'd encounter the scarecrow and the lion (another beastman) and then get pointed in the right direction. Fitting in with the theme, the lion would leap out to attack them, and could do quite a bit of damage with those huge claws. However, if anyone cast a single Fear spell on him, he'd immediately run away. We weren't sure whether the kids would figure out this strategy, or just go for the more direct approach of "Everyone hit him at once!"
I thought that the overall concept was quite clever, and it was funny to see Dots and Totes clinging onto each other while they hopped around. However, there was also a lot of overhead for a relatively short encounter; I spent the whole of the 2 hour monster slot on this linear, and I was only actually "in character" for about 5-10 minutes. It may have been different for other people, but the goblin squad spent most of our time hiding behind bushes waiting for the kids to arrive. Still, it was something a bit different, and I'm glad that I got to see how a linear works.
Once that finished, I had to get ready for the battle. Sadly, I needed a different colour of face paint for that, so I had to go and clean off all the green before I could come back to get red put on instead.
Most of the battle was fairly standard (as a monster): fight, die, go to a respawn point, then head back in. However, there were a few slight variations. As the Mempo, we were specifically told to have a code of honour, e.g. we would allow the player factions to collect their wounded and we wouldn't attack anyone who was healing. Similarly, we made an effort to retrieve and heal our own wounded. At one point, a few of us were attacked by players while we were dragging someone back to our lines: one of the other Mempo was quite aggrieved, and called out "We allowed you to help your fallen!" OC, this didn't really matter, because we didn't care if our monster characters died, but it was good roleplay.
Later on, there was a temporary truce so that the generals could confer. While this went on, I saw a few Mempo attacking the enemy from behind their lines; I assume that they'd been sent out earlier and hadn't heard the truce order. However, when our leader Heyami (pronounced "high army") saw them, he immediately ordered them to kneel, then executed them himself.
After that, we had another interruption: someone rushed up to Heyami. I didn't recognise him, so I can only assume that he was from some outside force. Anyway, this led to the following exchange:
Stranger: "Terror rank 5!"
Heyami: "Terror rank 10!"
The stranger then ran away screaming, which was very entertaining.
Meanwhile, another group from the allied factions had been off on a separate mission. Basically, the Mempo were fighting under duress: the forces of Terror had kidnapped the Emperor's daughter and held her hostage. We then heard news that the players had rescued her.
I think this is why the generals then decided to settle the battle by fighting in single combat. The leader of the Wolves had Thor's Hammer (roughly their equivalent of Excalibur), and that proved to be quite effective, eventually killing Heyami.
The Mempo forces then withdrew, but one of the officers asked for people to volunteer for Heyami's honour guard. The idea was to literally carry him off the field, a bit like pall bearers at a funeral. (The usual LARP method involves 3 people touching the person being "carried", who then walks on their own.) I stepped forward for that, and gave someone else my weapon to carry back to camp.
|(Photo © Steve 'Flasher' Mitchell)||(Photo © Oliver Facey)|
That's the back of my head on the left hand side of the second photo. This isn't exactly the way I've been taught to carry people during my first aid training, but for dramatic purposes I think it worked quite well. The main challenge was trying to get in close enough to support the weight, without tripping over anyone else's feet.
Once we'd left the battlefield, we disbanded. I went off to clean up and get changed, then came to the Lions camp in character as Cox again.
Back in camp, the Arcane Tempest gathered in our tent. However, Sergeant Major Wood wasn't very happy. As I've mentioned before (in my Naadam post), she's used thaumaturgy to make clothing act as armour. So, before we went out on manoeuvres, she went around to the other factions; the idea was that we could remove the lining from our coats and hire it out to them for the battle. (OC, we'd hand over the lammies and reclaim them afterwards.) Unfortunately, a couple of us forgot to do that, which meant less money for our group. One of the cadets (Katrex or Vulpus) did this, but she excused that because he didn't know any better. In my case, she described it as my first fuck up, so I mustn't make that mistake again.
Actually, I think my first big mistake was at Renewal last year, when I went off with Felbrigg and Ecclestone: that led to Wood confining me to camp afterwards. However, I didn't think that it was really necessary for me to bring that up. It's different to the situation with Sir Will; I'm willing to volunteer information which incriminates me, but in this case she already knew about the previous incident so I didn't feel obliged to remind her.
The High King then called Parliament. Among other things, he wanted to make sure that everyone had heard about the people who died on Saturday. However, there was some happier news as well. After Sir Will had spoken about the garlands, he went over to Harry (also in the Lance) and knelt down in front of her. When we were in the tavern at Naadam, she mentioned that they used to be lovers, and he now clarified that. "Harry, I've been a fool. I've always loved you, and I'll wait for you in Melaphine's halls."
Moving on from that, the High King asked all the nobles of the court to step forward and briefly explain what they do. He also said that he wants a new royal apothecary. "I wish Bartram Freeman well, wherever he is, but he isn't here so the position is now vacant." I assume that this is similar to the situation with Captain Darcy and the Castellan role, i.e. it's not a punishment. Hopefully some alchemists will join (or rejoin) the warhost next year.
He then spoke about our battle the following day. The basic plan was to find a volunteer to act as the avatar of Courage; they would then fight against the Dragon Knight (the avatar of Terror). If all went well, both avatars would probably die in order to restore the balance. The High King asked whether anyone from the Lions would like to volunteer to embody Courage, and several people stepped forward. He was pleased to see it, and said that he was sure we would all be willing to help.
I didn't instinctively step forward with the first volunteers, and I didn't want to join them just because everyone else was doing it and I was worried about looking bad. I'm not quite sure why this was different to the situation with the Forsythe daughter, where I was the first to take 3 steps. Part of it is that I know I'm not the best fighter in the warhost, so I'm not at all sure that I'd be a match for the avatar of Terror in single combat; other people would stand a much better chance. More generally, I think I felt that "Anyone could do this, so it doesn't have to be me." By contrast, there were only a few of us present during Melaphine's test, so it was us or nobody and (for all I knew) it might have taken all of us to make a cumulative difference. Basically, I'm willing to die but I would prefer to live.
When the High King asked for any other announcements, I stepped forward to inform everyone about the Merlin's new appearance; that way, they wouldn't be surprised if they encountered him.
After Parliament, I went over to the gate to make sure that everything was ok there. Following up on Jagra's visit from the previous night, I heard that the High King had brought in a new policy: no druids are welcome in our land. My immediate question was "What about Hound?" since she has the same markings. Apparently she's a special case, although I don't understand why, so this may be something that I need to discuss with the High King.
I also noticed that there were a couple of people hanging around just outside our gate, as an informal part of our guard. They weren't from our faction, and they were being a bit more aggressive than I would like about challenging visitors, but each time the real guard allowed someone through they said "Ah, that's alright then" (or words to that effect) so they weren't actually impeding the flow of traffic.
This reminded me of a similar situation from Renewal last year. As I wrote at the time:
That ritual succeeded, so we returned to camp. However, we then had to head back out to the ritual circle in force after someone else's ritual went wrong. There was a fight on the path, where a couple of people were injured, but we had healers to treat them. The High King then ordered all the Lions to escort the Algaia back to their camp. There were a couple of Tempest treating one of the casualties, and I wanted to stay with them, but this really was a direct order and I assumed that they'd follow on behind me. When we reached the Algaia camp, I waited by the side of the path for everyone else to go inside, but the other Tempest didn't turn up. When we all got back to our camp, the Tempest weren't there either. Damn it! Fortunately, it later turned out that they were ok (they'd gone off on a rescue mission), but the Captain did tell me that if they'd been killed then he would have blamed me for it.
Elaborating on that, I spent a while standing outside the Algaia camp. At one point, a few other people (from another faction) walked along the path and paused to glance inside the camp. The Algaia guard told them to keep moving; the people on the path objected, on the basis that they were outside the camp, so the Algaia didn't have any jurisdiction there. They also commented that the guards were being quite aggressive, and one of the guards said "Yes, that's very observant of you." I stood off to one side, trying to distance myself from this; the people on the path then continued their journey rather than escalating the argument.
One of the guards then noticed me, and after he conferred with his colleagues he realised that none of them knew who I was. I said that I'd arrived with the rest of my faction, and I was waiting for them; I was willing to go inside with them or wait outside and help the Algaia to guard the gate, whichever they preferred. The guard asked how many Lions were inside, and I told him that there were about 30 of us. I was tempted to make a comment about their own observation skills, but I thought that might be a bit tactless. The guard decided that I should go inside to join the others, but that coincided with the other Lions leaving, so I just travelled back to our camp with them.
Anyway, I didn't think that those guards had handled the situation very well, so I didn't want to make the same mistake here. I was satisfied that our gate guard could squelch their enthusiasm as necessary, so I didn't need to get directly involved.
Later on, I went back to the gate again. By this time, one of the unofficial guards was sitting on the bench just inside our camp. The Duke of Anglia arrived for a war council meeting, along with representatives of the other kingdoms of Albion. I've mentioned him before; he turned up at Renewal last year for an honour battle, then came back in June this year when he argued with Lord Blackwell. That led to the Duchess visiting us in July (at Naadam) and infecting several people at the Round Table. So, he's not my favourite person, but he is a noble and he was at our camp by invitation, so there was no question of holding him at the gate. Since he has a bad temper, I wanted to get him inside as quickly as possible, rather than provoking him with a delay.
As the Duke entered, our other visitor decided to speak up. "Who is this coming into my camp without being challenged?" I saw the Duke turning towards him, so I apologised and assured the Duke that I would take care of this. I then decided that it was time to lay down the law.
"This is not your camp, and you do not get to decide who is allowed in. I am the Castellan, and I am responsible for the safety of this camp."
(Technically, I'm only acting Castellan, but I didn't think that distinction was really relevant here.)
He didn't recognise the title, so I told him that my authority comes directly from the High King. He knew who the High King was, but he didn't want to take my word for it when I said that I was in charge of the gate, or to trust the other Lions nearby. So, I made things simpler.
"Will you submit to my authority as Castellan?"
"Then you will leave this camp, right now. Gate guard, clear a path!"
The people at the gate swiftly stepped to either side. Meanwhile, as I was talking, I carefully positioned myself. (OC, think of lining up a shot in snooker, so that there's a straight line from the cue ball to the other ball to the pocket.) I then cast a spell:
"By the power of the elements, I call forth Air TO REPEL THEE!"
The wind seized him; it blew him out through the gate, then across the path and into the bushes opposite.
"AND STAY OUT!"
(I may have dusted my hands off for emphasis as I turned away.)
This spell didn't harm him, and we all heard a rather plaintive monologue drifting across from the bushes.
"It's ok, I'm not injured. But some of these thorns are a bit uncomfortable. Ow."
I did my best to ignore that, then Queen Esme came over to talk to me. She'd heard me shouting, and asked what had happened. I explained the situation, and she hastened to add that she wasn't questioning my decision at all, she just wanted to make sure that I was alright. It's unusual for me to "get my shout on" like that; Captain Philips later said that it was like being savaged by a rabbit (in the sense that it was unexpected, rather than ineffectual).
As for the issue of the path being common ground, I think it depends on context. For instance, if a group of zombies attacked our camp, I wouldn't feel obliged to wait until they'd stepped through the gate before I hit them; in fact, I'd prefer to push them back and take the fight outside. So, in a case like this, it depends how irritating they are as to when I deem them a threat to the safety of the camp.
The Arcane Tempest then went off to visit the Teutonian camp. Unfortunately, when we arrived, we learnt that Hawke had been killed. I didn't know him very well, but I was sorry to hear that, particularly after he'd survived being buried by Grunewald the previous day.
When we returned, I saw that our unofficial guards had returned. I was just about to throw them out again, but then one of the Knights of the Clarion (a Lions group) spoke up first. It turned out that they were mercenaries, and he had hired them, so they did have some right to be there. However, that doesn't justify their previous actions. I said that one of them had referred to "my camp" rather than "our camp", so he was setting up himself to be in charge. His companion objected: "This is wordplay, and we are men of war." I had a simple retort to that: "Would you like to see me at war?"
The Clarion knight tried to smooth things over between us, suggesting that this had just been a misunderstanding. However, Prudence was nearby: she'd also witnessed the earlier dispute, and she backed me up, saying that they had refused to recognise my authority. In the end, we reached a compromise. They accepted the Clarion knight's word that I was in charge of the gate, and I accepted that they could stay in our camp.
Since the Order of Papilio were now on gate duty, I took this opportunity to talk to Simmerson. I'm still a bit awkward around her, but I thought I ought to find out how she prefers to be addressed. When I first met her in June, she and her companion (now deceased) said that I should refer to them as Simmerson and Rossendale respectively; however, I've noticed that other people in camp refer to her as "Sir Florence", and I didn't want to antagonise her any further by appearing not to respect her rank. She said that she preferred "Sir Florence", or I could use "Sir Simmerson" if I wanted to be more formal; she would also respond to "Simmerson" if it was urgent. However, she made it clear that I should use "Sir" rather than "Lady", on the basis that she's a knight. I suppose this is similar to Sergeant Major Wood: I always address her as "Sir" rather than "Ma'am".
Speaking of Wood, back in July I took part in a ritual to renew her greater mage ability. As I mentioned before, she offered some constructive criticism while we were waiting to hear the result. She was trying to be helpful (by suggesting what we could do differently in future), but she isn't the most diplomatic person; that's more the Captain's area of expertise. So, this didn't quite come across as intended, and Marlowe muttered that she was quite welcome to get someone else to do her next ritual if she felt that way. Later, we found out that the ritual had been a success, and Wood said "I stand corrected" but this didn't mollify Marlowe or Wayland. (Personally, I wasn't offended: she's my commanding officer, and it's part of her job to reprimand me if she thinks I'm doing something badly.)
Wood then wanted to do another ritual at this event. As I understand it, Marlowe and Wayland had both previously agreed to do this, but they changed their mind after the mage ritual in July. Unfortunately, they didn't seek Wood out to tell her this, so she only found out when she spoke to them on Sunday afternoon (in August), asking when the ritual was scheduled for. As a related point, this meant that nobody had been in touch with the watchers at the ritual circle to arrange access, and the circle was fully booked for the rest of the event. So, even if Wood could find a team to perform the ritual, they would have to displace somebody else's ritual that had already been booked.
Since Santia (the Arcane Tempest's home island) is part of the kingdom of Essex, Sergeant Major Wood then discussed the situation with Queen Esme (ruler of Essex). Queen Esme then spoke to Queen Cersei, and Queen Cersei asked the Magister got involved. He's a member of the Knights of the North (Queen Cersei's group), and also a lead ritualist. He can form his own ritual team from the other Knights of the North, so the two queens asked whether he could assist Wood. In the meantime, both queens ordered Wood not to speak to Marlowe or Wayland about this, presumably to avoid another argument.
I escorted the Magister to Wood's tent so that he could discuss it with her, but he warned me on the way over that he'd have to ask her some difficult questions. When we got there, I waited outside to give them some privacy, so I don't know exactly what they discussed. However, the end result was that her ritual would be delayed, i.e. he wouldn't do it for her at this event.
After that, I had to set off for the ritual circle myself. There were four rituals in a row, although I only actually took part in one of them; I just watched the others.
The first ritual was for Tyrius (the Lord Steward of the Lions). The basic goal was the same as Cornelius' ritual, i.e. converting a lesser Shaman into a greater Shaman, but the rituals themselves were very different. In this case, Oak of the Algaia went into the circle alongside the Lions. Tyrius started out by talking about Crow, a former High Warden of Albion who died a few years ago (before I joined the warhost). Cerisse asked Oak about him, and he referred to "Crow the weak, Crow the betrayer". Apparently Crow walked the line between darkness and light, doing things that the rest of the Lions wouldn't approve of in order to protect them. This meant that there were several times when he went to Oak and wept, because there was nobody in his own faction who would understand what he'd done.
At some point, Crow was blinded; possibly this was after one of his dodgy deals went wrong. Oak helped out, and gave one of his eyes to Crow. For as long as I've known Oak, he's always worn an eye-patch, and now I know why. Tyrius now felt that it was time to repay that favour, so he was willing to sacrifice one of his eyes and give it to Oak. That fits in with the goal of the ritual (i.e. making a personal sacrifice in exchange for gaining greater power), and it also supports the Algaia religion: as I understand it, they believe that things go in cycles. Lady Skye was part of the ritual team, and she's a surgeon; she was willing to attach the eye to Oak, but she wouldn't commit an act of violence by cutting it out of Tyrius. Fortunately, Oak was willing to oblige there. This involved a certain amount of blood and screaming.
When they all left the ritual circle, Oak had two eyes and Tyrius was wearing Oak's old eye patch. So, just to keep track:
- Crow's eyes are lost somewhere.
- Crow's body is buried with one of Oak's eyes and an empty socket.
- Oak has one of his own eyes and one of Tyrius' eyes.
- Tyrius has one of his own eyes, and an empty socket covered by a patch.
Maybe someone else will donate an eye to Tyrius in a couple of years, but we'll have to wait and see. Anyway, I believe that the ritual was successful, which is good.
The next ritual was for the Celestial College: they wanted to send a research team to the plane of motion. I don't really understand the cosmological details involved, but our team (Cerisse, Wayland, Marlowe, Brocc, and I) used the metaphor of a sailing ship. For instance, when we cleansed the circle we called on various elemental forces: water for a smooth sea and air to fill their ship's sails with wind.
As usual, we didn't rehearse this in advance; in this case, that led to a mis-step. Cerisse was summarising what we'd done so far, and said: "We have our ship, we have our cargo." I added: "We have our crew", but she said that no, we don't. Oops. If I'd said "Sorry" and let her continue, it would have been obvious that I'd made a mistake, so instead I relied on forward momentum. I deliberately exaggerated my surprise, and said "We don't? Then tell us, Cerisse, what more do we need?" (OC, think of washing powder adverts on TV, where one person will be shocked to discover that their neighbour has achieved such dazzling whites; what miracle product could possibly be responsible?) In this case, I think we got away with it.
A little bit later, Cerisse instructed each member of the research team to act out the jobs that they would perform on the ship, such as swabbing the deck. Most of them cooperated, except for the person who just stood still when Cerisse told him to climb the rigging. Maybe (IC) he felt that it was beneath his dignity? I intervened, saying: "Come on, this is easy. All you have to do is put your hands in the net, then put your foot on, then pull yourself up and put your other foot on." (As I said this, I acted it out to demonstrate what I meant.) "A child could do this. In fact, young children often do do this!" This way, I was taking an active role in the ritual (to match the power I'd contributed), and it meant that something visual was happening rather than everyone standing still.
When we reached the appropriate point in the ritual, we lit a candle and then the research team all teleported away. We said that they would return when the candle burnt out, so we made sure to shield the flame from any breeze. Based on that, I assume that the ritual was successful, although I'm not sure what happened to them in the other plane or whether they made it back safely later.
After that, I took the opportunity to run to the food wagon nearby (i.e. the burger van) so that I could get some dinner, then I settled down to watch the Jhereg ritual while I ate. This was effectively a pantomime, and they had banners that they held up at key points. Unfortunately a lot of the audience couldn't read, but based on how other people reacted I assume that these were cues for us to cheer or boo. Anyway, it was entertaining, and the narrator made some funny observations. For instance, when two people fell in love at first sight, the narrator sarcastically commented that this was clearly a solid foundation for marriage. I don't recall what they actually wanted to achieve, but I'm sure they succeeded.
After that, the Magister took in another group to do a ritual for Queen Esme. This was similar to Cornelius and Tyrius (converting a lesser Shaman into a greater Shaman), except that it was renewing what she already had rather than increasing her power. Each lead ritualist has their own style, so I was interested to see how he'd handle it. The basic structure was to put her in a no-win situation. For instance, he set up a vision where a demon captured two of Esme's friends and told her to choose which one he would kill. She didn't want to choose either of them, but she wasn't powerful enough to stop him; he then "killed" Lady Skye, and her spirit confronted Esme afterwards, asking why Esme allowed her to die. The point of this was that being a greater shaman wouldn't solve all her problems, and she needed to accept that as the price of holding that power. I believe that this ritual succeeded too, and I'd be happy to work with the Magister in another ritual (e.g. for Sergeant Major Wood).
After that, we all travelled back to camp together. When we arrived, Captain Philips informed me that it was time for my final challenge as an aspirant: the test of Trask. As I mentioned before, we had one test for each of the gods of law. Most of them weren't explicitly identified, but talking amongst ourselves we came up with a plausible theory.
- Creed (god of war): the very first trial, where we captured Verlaine
- Sastrines (goddess of nature): where we first encountered the Forsythe family
- Damacest (goddess of healing): dealing with the infection that spread across the camp from the Forsythe family
- Drako (god of justice): the trial of the Forsythe family
- Melaphine (goddess of death): choosing how many steps we'd take to save the Forsythe daughter
- Solkar (god of righteous vengeance): going out in the dark with Hubert to take reprisals against the kidnappers
- Trask (god of duty): to be determined...
I don't think the tourney was linked to any specific god, so that was just an extra opportunity for us to prove our worth.
The Monks of the Winding Chain specifically follow Trask, and Anise spoke on his behalf at Queen Esme's coronation last year, so they said that it would be a bit embarrassing to fail this test! I was in a similar position, but I hoped that this would be the easiest test for me based on my allegiances. Captain Philips went to tell the High King that I was ready. However, it turned out that I'd missed my turn because I wasn't there when he called, so I'd now been put at the back of the queue. That's unfortunate, but I don't feel too guilty about being busy elsewhere, particularly since I didn't know in advance that this was coming.
While I was waiting, I went back to the gate. We then had some visitors from another faction, looking for someone who could cast a particular Tuareg spell. I was reluctant to leave; as acting Castellan, I can delegate gate duty to other people, but I couldn't delegate Trask's test to anyone else. Since this was a test of duty, that probably made it particularly important for me to do what I was told and stay put. On the other hand, there aren't many people who've learnt this spell, and none of the others were around, so arguably I also had a duty to use what I've learnt. This was a request rather than an order, so it was my decision. I decided to go, in the hope that I could get back to camp before anyone missed me.
(OC, I remember watching Who wants to be a Superhero? a few years ago. In one of the challenges, each person had to find somewhere out of sight to change into their costume, then get across the city to a particular location as quickly as possible. However, there was also a secret test: their route took each person past a little girl who was crying because she'd lost her mother. So, would they stop to help her, knowing that it would jeopardise their chances, or focus on their assigned task? The person who won actually had the slowest time overall, because he stopped to help and this demonstrated that he had the right values. In the LARP situation, I didn't think it was anything quite so convoluted, but the same principle applies: doing the right thing should take precedence over winning a contest.)
So, we left the Lions camp. Sergeant Major Wood came too, so that I wouldn't have to come back on my own afterwards. It was getting dark by this point, and as we turned a corner outside the Algaia camp I heard growling coming from the bushes on my left. This startled me, to the extent that I literally jumped and collided with Wood, who was on my right. In my defence, I didn't leap up into her arms (Scooby-Doo style); rather, I turned to face where the noise was coming from and I took a step backwards so that there would be a bit more distance between me and whatever it was. However, there wasn't enough room to do that without bumping into her. This comes back to what I was saying yesterday about being aware of my surroundings, to avoid clumsy mistakes like that. I saw some glowing eyes in the darkness, but Wood told me to keep moving, so we continued our journey.
(OC, I later learnt that the special effects team had hidden some "noise boxes" in the bushes. I don't know whether they were linked to motion sensors or just went off at random, but they were very effective at creating a creepy atmosphere!)
When we arrived at the other camp, people gave me various objects to cleanse: this means that they were guaranteed to be free of poison, so it would be safe to eat from that plate or drink from that goblet. I don't quite understand what this was all for, but this is the first time that I've actually been able to use the spell "for real" (rather than just practicing it or teaching it to other people), so I'm glad that it's come in useful for something.
When we got back, there was some trouble at the gate: Harry and B'rakka were pointing their weapons at a couple of men who were standing outside, and flatly refusing to let them into the camp. I recognised one of the men as a mercenary who the Clarion had hired, although he wasn't the guy who I repelled into the bushes. There didn't seem to be any obvious threat, so I was surprised that our guards were acting that way. It then turned out that we saw the men differently: Harry and B'rakka saw them as undead (zombies). I assured them that the men looked human to me, and Harry explicitly said "I trust Private Cox". That was nice to hear; I'm grateful for that level of trust. So, I told them both to let the men into the camp on my authority.
I spoke to Captain Philips, and it turned out that I had missed being called for the test, so I went to the back of the queue again. (I assume that some other people had also missed their slots.) This time, I made sure to stay nearby until I was called.
Every aspirant was sworn to secrecy about the nature of this test, so all I can say here is what the other people in camp already know. Each of us was called in turn, then we went into a tent to talk to the High King. After a while, we came out again. So, this test was individual, and I don't know whether my experience was the same as anyone else's. (OC, I would really like to talk to a few particular people about it. However, I think it's easiest for all of us to roleplay our curiousity IC if we keep quiet OC as well.)
Looking at the tests in general, I think they've acted as something of a crucible. For instance, Drako's and Melaphine's tests forced me to make choices, and thus work out for myself how far I was willing to go for what I believed in. Even though the tests are over, the memory of those choices remains with me, and I think I understand myself a bit better as a result. Thinking about some of the other jobs that were announced in Parliament (e.g. First Wizard), if the High King had invited people to apply for the position of Champion of Law then I wouldn't have put myself forward. I really stumbled into it by accident, but once I'd started I was determined to see it through, and it's been a highlight of this year's events.
After that, it was time for the Arcane Tempest's shift on gate duty. Cadet Katrex didn't turn up, so I went looking for him and found him in our group tent. He said that he was tired after he'd been up all night doing research at the Celestial College, but he would go to the gate if it was an emergency.
This comes back to what I said earlier, about the slightly odd chain of command. "As Castellan, I am ordering the Arcane Tempest to do this shift. However, within the Arcane Tempest, it is up to Captain Philips to decide which individual people should be there. I'll tell him what you said, and let you know if you need to attend."
I went back to speak to the Captain, and he said that he was satisfied that the rest of us could handle things without Katrex. He also gave Sergeant Major Wood the rest of the night off, since she'd had a bad couple of days, and encouraged her to go to the tavern. In her absence, she deputised me as acting Master of the Hunt.
We soon had a visit from Lady Fear (the daughter of Terror). I escorted her around the camp, or at least followed her from a respectful distance. I've encountered her a few times, and always done my best to be polite; so far, she hasn't harmed me. That's probably just a coincidence rather than recognition, but I'll take what I can get. As she wandered around, she idly mentioned: "It's a shame that so many of you will die in battle tomorrow." Not the most comforting thing I've ever heard!
When she walked back towards the gate, I called out for people to clear a path. There was someone I didn't recognise standing just outside the gate with his back to the camp, and I (gently) shoved him, saying "Move, now!" He still didn't, and then she sent him screaming into the night with a fear spell. There's just no helping some people...
Later, we had a visit from some Tuareg scouts. They asked to talk to our lead scout, and it took me a moment to realise "Oh, right, that's me!" I didn't expect to go from peon to (temporarily) holding two senior roles over the course of the weekend. Anyway, they wanted to share the information that they'd learned, so I took them over to the Round Table to speak to Lord Leofric. The meeting from earlier was still going on (with the representatives of each kingdom), and I accidentally bumped into the Duke of Anglia's sword as I walked past behind him. He complained about this, so I apologised, although really he was breaching etiquette by not placing his weapon on the table in front of him.
Anyway, the scouts had learnt that we would encounter waves of demon possessed villagers in our battle the following day. Each time they died, the demons would possess another group and come in again. Those villagers were currently in holding pens, so the scouts wanted us to lock them in: that way, we'd spare their lives and save ourselves some trouble. Lord Leofric said that he would consider their words, but he couldn't make any promises, because there were various factors to consider in the strategy.
Later on, we had another visit from scouts; this time, they'd come from the Fir Cruthen. Again, I took them over to the Round Table, but Montgomery (from the Order of St Eve) was standing nearby and he said that this was a really bad time. I thought that the news from the scouts was sufficiently important to justify interrupting, so Montgomery had to emphasise this a couple of times before I got the point. After that, I told the scouts that they could tell me what they'd learned, and I'd pass the message onto Lord Leofric later. In hindsight, that's probably what I should have done in the first place with both sets of scouts.
The Fir Cruthen reported that the Dragon Knight was hiring mercenaries. Those mercenaries wanted to ambush us on the way to the battle, but they might not do it if they'd get into trouble, i.e. if the Dragon Knight wouldn't like it. The mercenaries didn't understand why the Dragon Knight wanted us (the allied factions) to take the altar of courage with us, or why he was holding back his most powerful forces.
Both sets of scouts asked whether we'd be sending anyone out, and I belatedly realised that this would be up to me. I had a few volunteers, including Cadet Vulpus from the Tempest and Swithin from Deira. However, neither of them had been out scouting before, and none of us had any healing magic. Some scouting missions are more dangerous than others; for instance, when we tried to eavesdrop on a conversation in June, we were in no danger at all because we were so far away. However, in this case we knew that there were a lot of enemy forces around, so we were far more likely to encounter trouble.
I've heard that there were similar stakes in May last year (before I joined the warhost), when 7 scouts went out and only 2 of them came back. That was when Sergeant Major Wood was in charge, so we'd have even less chance without her. Captain Philips wasn't going to go out either way (officers don't go scouting), and as with the Castellan role he said that he would defer to my judgment rather than ordering me to stay or go, but he advised me against it.
I enjoy scouting, and I know from past experience that a successful mission can turn the tide of battle. I think it was Renewal last year where Sergeant Major Wood discovered a tunnel that the enemy were planning to use to bring in reinforcements during the battle, so blocking that off gave our forces a significant advantage the following day. Also, after all my talk about duty, it would seem rather poor to take on the role of lead scout and then refuse to actually do any scouting! On the other hand, if we all went out there and died without bringing back any useful information then it would be pointless. I'm willing to risk my life to achieve something (e.g. helping the Forsythe daughter), but this situation was different. So, with regret, I decided that we wouldn't go out. Still, maybe there was some benefit to me acting as Master of the Hunt: I led a scouting mission in May, when I had a narrow escape from enemy forces, and that was considered a safer environment. So, I have the experience of knowing what can go wrong, and I'd like to think that led me to the right decision.
When we were relieved at the gate, I sought out Lord Leofric so that I could pass on the message from the Fir Cruthen. He was still busy, so someone advised me to speak to King Beaumont instead. King Beaumont was also busy, but I spoke to his deputy. When I mentioned that the Dragon Knight wanted us to take the Altar of Courage to the battlefield (which had confused the mercenaries), the deputy suddenly took my head in both his hands (one hand on each of my cheeks) and got very happy, saying that this explained something. He didn't elaborate, but I'm glad it made sense to him!
This event was called the Renewal of Magic, and there's normally a ritual each year to actually do the renewal. However, Cerisse explained to me that we weren't doing it this year. I don't fully understand the cosmology, but it seems that there's a balancing act. If we perform the renewal ritual every year then we'll bind magic more tightly into its current form, and that will interfere with the research that the thaumaturges are doing. (Sergeant Major Wood often uses the phrase "I bend and break the rules of reality" as a cantrip.) On the other hand, if we go too long without the ritual then the planes start to drift out of alignment and magic becomes too chaotic. So, I'll let wiser heads work out how often we should be doing it.
Based on that, I thought that I was done with rituals for the weekend, but then a messenger turned up at our gate. Someone wanted to perform a ritual that would break the link between a demon and a construct, in order to help us in battle the following day, so they were asking for help from all the factions. Marlowe in particular was very dubious about getting involved in this, since there was already one demon who knew him by name. However, we went along to learn more about it.
As it turned out, the messengers got a big response, so there were far more people than we needed. Swithin had come with the Lions group: he was keen to get involved, but he didn't have any prior experience and he could only contribute a small amount of power. I didn't want to exclude him, particularly after he'd volunteered for the scouting mission and then I'd told him that we weren't going after all. However, I didn't think that this was the best ritual to start out with, given how badly things could go wrong.
The lead ritualists discussed the situation and decided to form multiple teams. The first team would go into the circle and try to perform the ritual. However, if they were incapacitated then another lead ritualist could ask the circle to lower its wards and allow the second team to enter. Similarly, if the second team failed then the third team would take over, and if they failed then the fourth team would take over. If all four teams failed then we'd be in really big trouble! I went into the second team with Cerisse, and Swithin went into the fourth team.
Fortunately, the first team succeeded: they broke the link and got out safely. So, the rest of us returned to camp. I introduced Swithin to Cerisse, and hopefully we can find a safer ritual for him to start with. Now that I have other responsibilities, I may need to reduce the number of rituals that I can take part in, so it will be useful to have extra people around.
On our way back to camp, I passed Sergeant Major Wood coming in the opposite direction with Pip (a Teutonian scout). She was acting a bit strangely, almost furtive. I asked whether she was alright, and she said "Yes" then hurried past me, almost giggling. Under other circumstances, I would have enquired further, but she was off-duty and the Captain had encouraged her to get drunk; she wasn't walking the path alone, so I didn't think she was in danger. Meanwhile, I was escorting a few other people from the ritual team who couldn't do much to defend themselves, so I was conscious that we needed to get back to camp as soon as possible rather than standing on the path, and I couldn't desert them to follow Wood.
Once we got back to camp, I had the opportunity to speak to Sir Will. He gave me some useful advice about being Castellan. He reminded me of his rules, but he said that I'll need to choose my own style. He was always willing to risk his own life; in some cases, he'd order other people to fall back while he dealt with attackers. That reminded me of a song that I'd heard some people singing around the campfire: "When the Castellan's a-charging, you can kiss your arse goodbye!" I know that it didn't refer to me; in fact, I believe that it predates both Sir Will and Captain Darcy. However, it was quite satisfying to hear it, and it makes me think that if the camp is attacked then I should be running towards the enemy rather than away from them.
A little while later, the evening was drawing to a close. I was chatting to some of the other Tempest by our tent, then Sergeant Major Wood and Pip came into camp and hurried over towards us. Someone else (who I didn't recognise) ran up behind them and said that we should subdue them. He claimed that the Arcane Tempest had authorised this, so I exchanged glances with the others; we're the Tempest, and we hadn't authorised it. However, Captain Philips then arrived on the scene and he repeated the order, so we surrounded them and were able to knock them unconscious. (It helped that we significantly outnumbered them and that there were various tent ropes acting as obstacles, otherwise I think they could have evaded us.) The unknown visitor turned out to be Teutonian, and he asked us to cast Spirit Sight. Unfortunately, I'd just used up all my Shaman spells a few minutes before that, practicing the Tuareg spells; since it was so close to bedtime, I didn't expect to need them for anything else!
Fortunately, we found someone else who could examine them, and it turned out that their minds had been clouded. We tied them up and left them to sleep, in the hope that the effect would wear off by the morning. (OC, this happened just before Time Out, so we put that on hold until we could continue the following day.)
Concluded on Monday.