"A shadow over Winchester" – Serpents Fall : Session 6 (written summary)
Our heroes leave the small Saxon village of Wulfrincingas, accompanied by Lord Wulfric (who is still recovering from his injuries with the help of Ozuchi’s medicinal ministrations); after a couple of days of travelling they make camp and, after a little discussion, Benito and Lord Wulfric decide to take the first watch. Benito asks Wulfric why he is so keen to come along on the journey to Winchester, Wulfric tells him that it is a matter of honour and that he wished to set an example for his own people by dealing with his own affairs; in turn Benito explains that he is trying to find someone who can tell him more about the curse that prevents him sailing on the seas and, if possible, remove it.
Tossing and turning in his sleep, Horesh has been dreaming about being bitten by an animated snake statue during his initiation as a death priest and wakes up, shouting about his arm and flailing about; Kron and Wulfric both go for weapons, assuming the camp is under attack, Ozuchi however realises what is happening and tells them all to go to sleep before nodding off himself. Benito checks on Horesh who has also begun to fall back to sleep after the initial commotion and sees that he is unharmed. As the group is about the change watch Kron hears what sounds like a stampede of heavy footfalls in the distance coming towards them and Wulfric spots smoke or dust on the horizon; woken once again by the commotion Horesh sends his raven familiar flying up into the air and, peering out through it’s eyes, sees a herd of stampeding Shield-beast heading in their direction.
Shouting to the others Horesh begins running for it; glancing around Kron spots a rocky outcropping and howls for the others to head for it as the rampaging beasts thunder towards them. Slowed by his injuries it looks for a moment as though Lord Wulfric will be trampled when Ozuchi grabs hold of him and, with a stunning display of Stygian martial arts, flips the old warrior onto the stone platform, although in the process he is buffetted by the panicked creatures. Benito disappears beneath the dust swirling cloud of the stampeding herd, but a few minutes later he hauls his bedraggled and bloodied form up onto the rock along with the others. Gasping for breath Wulfric wonders aloud what could have caused the stampede, Gunnar Kron looks around and sees a huge bipedal Fanged King running behind the herd and heading in their direction; with the herd now having passed them the group dive into the shadow of the rock, pulling Horesh’s huge cloak of them and the giant lizard king runs past without seeing them.
After a few days travel northwards they reach a slight valley dotted with farming villages, in the distance they can see the splendour of the capitol, Winchester and the stone majesty of Castle Harcourt at it’s centre; Ozuchi in particular seems affected by the scale of the building, having never seen anything like it before. Kron, in his past, raided in this area previously, although his people never made it to Castle Harcourt and he thinks back to the legends of Just King Godric, slayer of the Dragon of Celtia, who bore the blessed spear Aelfgar (known as ‘heartseeker’ amongst the Norse), capable of slaying any man or beast. The spear had been used many times to turn back attacks from his own people and also to slay the Dragon of Celtia, whose skull now hung over Godric’s throne according to the tales. Interested in Kron’s tale Ozuchi asks some questions and his barbarian associate related that the spear could only be wielded by the pure of hear and was passed down through the Kings of Saxony when they each proved themselves.
Stopping in to a loal far to get some provisions (and animal feed for Horesh and Benito’s pet piglets) they warned against going to Winchester by the farmer, who said that things hadn’t been the same in the kingdom since Godric left a few years ago on his crusade against the noth, the Regent has been in power since and was squeezing the lifeblood out of the nation, lining his own pockets and charging high taxes so that he could host lavish functions and run ridiculous tournaments at arms; the farmer waved a flyer for an upcoming tournament in their face as though to prove what he was saying. Seeing that the prize for the tournament was a purse of gold coins and that participation was only for those of noble blood, Benito asked to keep the flyer; as they left the farm some discussion occurred between Kron and Ozuchi about whether a Norsican walking into Saxony undisguised was going to cause problems, Wulfric allayed these fears by saying that he would claim the party as his retinue (as was his right as a noble of Saxony).
Winchester, the capitol of Saxoy seemed a lot more wealthy on the whole than the smaller provinces they had explored, it was clear a lot of the wealth from the nation flowed here although the streets were still crammed with the poor and hungry, and with flouncing nobles trying desperately to avoid noticing the downtrodden. Benito begins making himself at home, winking and smiling at the local ladies as they pass whilst both Kron and Horesh try to ignore the strange looks they are getting fro people; Ozuchi is oblivious to all of this as, excited by the opportunity to explore a new culture, he runs about purchasing all manner of foods from the street vendors and sampling the culinary delights of Saxony. Noticing some starving urchins standing near a roadside pork vendor, Ozuchi buys some meat and gives it to the waifs, seeing this Benito removes the ruby ring that he took from Hannibal Hawkins and buys the entirety of the vendors stock, he then begins distributing it to the people, gathering quite a crowd; climbing atop the rotisserie he introduces himself as Benito, King of the Sword Isles, feeder of the poor, defender of the weak and helpless.
Having sold all of his stock the vendor is about to leave when Kron offers him two of the piglets from their provisions asking him to cook them as well, nervously the man says that he doesn’t want to trade with Norsican since the northern people were responsible for the king leaving; not wanting to cause trouble but weary of the stigma attached to the place of his birth, Kron thrusts the two piglets into the mans arms and allows him to leave. A large crowd has gathered and are chanting “Benito! Benito! He’s amazing, he’s come here to save us! He’ll bring back the king and save us from the Regent!”
Standing on the edge of the crowd, Kron notices five aroured Saxon guards moving down the main thoroughfare from the castle, still annoyed about the prejudice he faces in this nation, Kron interposes himself between the guards and the crowd saying sternly “We don’t want any trouble.” The captain of the guard tells Kron that they are here to disperse the unruly mob by orders of the Regent, Kron is attempting to explain that the people are just hungry and aren’t a mob when, behind him, Benito tells the crowd that if he wins then the purse of gold will be used to buy food for the people of Winchester; the people start screaming and cheering, hearing this the captain goes to push past Kron but the Norsican is unmoving so the captain shouts for his men to arrest Kron and disperse the crowd. The only thing that stops the situation escalating is when Wulfric steps out of the crowd, holding up his seal of nobility and asks if there is a problem with his retinue; seeing and recognising Lord Wulfric the guard captain backs down and has his men escort the group to the castle.
On their way to the castle Kron and Ozuchi thank Wulfric for his help, he replies “After all you have done for me, you do not need to thank me my friends.” Horesh shakes Lord Wulfrics hand and offers him some support since the incident has taxed his (still not 100% recovered) strength a little. Ozuchi points out that the dark colour of his and Horesh’s skin may mark them out as different to the people of Saxony, Wulfric nods but says that he chooses his companions based not on the colour of their skin but on the strength of their hearts and spirits, he asks them not to form too harsh an opinion of the Saxon people saying that they are frightened, these are uncertain times and fear can often easily turn to mistrust and suspicion. There is a brief delay at the gate to the castle when one of the soldiers on duty there questions the inclusion of a Norsican in Lord Wulfric’s retinue, Wulfric threatens to report the man for impeding a noble on business with the Regent and they are quickly allowed inside.
Inside the main hall of Castle Harcourt there is an atmosphere of luxury and opulence, it is full of silken drapes and sumptuously attired courtiers; a gaunt, middle-aged man with a close-shaved head (unusual in Saxony where most men let their hair grow to shoulder length) sits on a large throne with a huge draconic, horned skull hanging above it, along with shields and weapons. Sat next to him is a beautiful and cruel looking woman who looks very similar to Ceolwyn (the women from Wulfricingas who attempted to poison Lord Wulfric), sitting on the other side of him is a beautiful, pregnant woman. Coughing, the shaven headed Regent welcomes Lord Wulfric to Winchester, he gestures for his attendants to provide seating and food.
Wulfric glances at the seal of the Regent, taken from those who attempted to poison him and gripped in his hand, considering his next move; Kron feels a bit conflicted given his history as a raider and his previous views of the people of Saxony, but he gives Lord Wulfric a re-assuring nod. Ozuchi and Horesh are taken aback at the opulence on display gazing wide-eyed around the room, Benito, on the other hand, feels very much at home and comments on the splendour of the palace and how preferrable it is to slumming with the poor (attempting to ingratiate himself with the Regent). Regent Harcourt says that he is honoured to receive such a guest as the reknowned Pirate King of the Sword Isles, and asks him what his business is in Winchester. In response to Benito’s mention of curses he says that the enlightened nation of Saxony has no use for heathen magics, Benito replies that the journey is not wasted because he has got to experience the opulence of Winchester and the well-reknowned hospitallity of the Regent; smiling, the Regent offers to waiver the fee for Benito’s participation in the tournament.
The pale woman (whom the Regent identifies as Morwrei) requests that the Regent allow the group to stay as guest in the castle and enjoy the hospitallity of Saxony, the Regent agrees and bids his men make quarters ready for them. Whilst this conversation is occurring, Ozuchi turns his attention inward, communing with the spirits to find out whether any form of unearthly or spiritual power is being used to favour the Regent; he has a vision of Anlaf and Ceolwyn being executed by soldiers back in Wulfricingas on the orders of their captain Aedelred, they are be-headed. Reflected in the dead eyes of Ceolwyn, Ozuchi sees a raven taking off from the nearby trees. Back at Harcourt Castle he sees Morwrei stood in the castle window, a raven lands on her arm and whispers into her ear, she lets out a cry of rage and pain, her hand clenching and crushing the bird. Coming back to his senses Ozuchi gestures to Wulfric not to show the seal, the old Lord slides the seal back into his jerkin and nods.
Regent Harcourt asks Benito to tell a tale of daring do or perhaps for Kron to chill them with a tale from the north, nodding the Norsican tells the tale of King Godric’s great spear Aelfgar and how it could only be wielded by a man pure of heart; Benito notices that Morwrei’s eyes have never left Ozuchi during the whole encounter, although her face remains impassive. As Kron tells his tale, the Regents pleasant mask of civility becomes cold and in clipped tones he suggests that the court retire for the evening; before they leave he asks whether or not Kron will participate in the tournament, Kron agrees and the Regent offers to waive the fee for his participation before retiring along with most of the court. He orders the pregnant woman (who he calls Emma) to retire, she appears about ready to speak to the PCs but thinks better of it.
A simpering old seneschel of the castle called Silas leads the group to their guest quarters, it appears from the conversation that the Seneschel knew Wulfric’s father, although he does seem slightly addled; our heroes are lodged in single rooms next to each other, the larger rooms having already been taken by other nobles and their entourages who arrived earlier. Silas tells them that Regent Harcourt has invited almost every noble family in the nation, Benito and Horesh mention their piglets and Silas seems confused that they are keeping them as pets, offering to have the castle chef prepare them; eventually he agrees to them keeping the pigs in their room on this one occasion.
Ozuchi reveals his vision and that he believes, had the seal been revealed, that the Regent would have gone to any lengths to silence them and Wulfric; he also tells them that the pale woman with the Regent heard of the death of her sister from a raven and that she perhaps has mastery of dark powers herself. Wulfric tells that the woman is called Morwrei and is the consort of the Regent and that she is indeed the sister of Ceolwyn; Benito tells Ozuchi that she was watching him during the entire conversation. Kron asks Wulfric about Emma and is told that she is the wife of King Godric, she carries the future heir of Saxony and was put in the Regents care when King Godric left on his crusade; it is tradition in Saxony that only men can hold positions of rulership (normally the eldest son). Wulfric explains that he doesn’t trust the Regent (given the poisoning attempt) but that he will behave honourably, he then excuses himself to sleep, still not being at his full strength yet; Kron sleeps in a chair in Wulfric’s room whilst Horesh sleeps on the floor wrapped in his expansive robes. Benito heads back to his own room and wedges chair behind the door.
Not feeling sleepy Ozuchi goes for a walk whilst everyone else goes to sleep, he sees a black clad person sneaking through the shadows of the courtyard, entering the tower where their lodgings are located, he sneaks after the figure but the mysterious person has locked the door of the tower behind them, sighing Ozuchi begins taking the long route back through the rest of the castle.
Back in Wulfric’s room Kron suddenly starts awake, in the darkness of the room he hears a faint hissing sound coming from over by the door of the chamber; Horesh wakes up as a snake slithers across his chest towards Wulfric’s bed, the Khemrian jumps up and begins batting at his chest. Wulfric waits up to the noise from Horesh and then shouts as the snake bites him, hearing the cry, Horesh’s daggers flicker out in the darkness and slay the snake.
Ozuchi arrives outside and hears the noise from inside Wulfric’s quarters, he enters to see Lord Wulfric hanging off the bed, his eyes rolled back in his head and his mouth hanging open, Kron helps Wulfric onto the bed and shouts for Ozuchi to help him. Glancing up from the bed Kron spots a figure perched with one foot on the window ledge (as though about to climb through into Wulfric’s room), a shocked female face looks at him for a moment; growling Kron swings his hammer at her, taking the woman’s legs out from underneath her and she falls forward into the room landing across Wulfric’s bed, at which point the Norsican restrains her. Snapping her head forwards the woman headbutts Kron in the face and then, wriggling free, throws herself out of the window; Horesh dispatches his raven familiar to follow the woman, who is escaping towards the stables over the rooftops of the castle.
Horesh and Kron leap out of the window to chase the woman, Benito has awakened and, seeing them jumping out of the window, follows them whilst Ozuchi remains behind to save Wulfric. The woman runs across roof towards stables, she is very agile and begins to lengthen the distance between herseld and her pursuers; reaching the end of the roof she drops through the straw ceilinf of one of the castle stables and knocks a load of barrels over to impede her pursuer, Horesh plots a rapid course through the tumbling barrels and the others follow. When they reach the door of the stables they find the woman has barred it, Kron smashes the door aside, barely slowly down in his fury just in time to see their quarry vault onto the back of a horse tied up in the courtyard and gallop off, our heroes all leap onto other horses and ride in pursuit. As the woman gallops towards the moat Kron can see that the drawbridge is up bu the woman isn’t slowing down, her horse sails through the air as it jumps the moat, our heroes follow, only just making the jump and pursue her into the cobbled streets of Saxony; leaping off her horse the woman darts down a small sidestreet, trying to lose her pursuers in the confusing tangle of alleyways however, Horesh’s natural cleverness supported by Benito’s ability to instantly blend into new cultures allow them to chase her to a small storage house.
Kron smashes open the door, inside the woman draws a small knife and shouts “Go on then, kill me like you killed Wulfric!” Horesh melts past Kron with his robes flowing behind him, he slices the woman’s arm (sending her dagger flying) and she falls to the ground with a cry, she screams “Go on, get it over with!”
Kron pins woman against the wall (careful not to get within headbutt range) and explains that they didn’t kill Wulfric and asks who she is; despite initial misgivings (having seen the PCs standing over Wulfric’s body) she reveals that she is of the celtic people and that her name is Asinor. Asinor had heard Wulfric was a just and honourable man, she came to ask for his aid but didn’t dare walk in because the Regent has spied everywhere; she wanted help getting one of her tribles wisest seers Mervane released from Castle Winchester’s dungeons. Benito says can help but it wouldn’t be strictly legal, Asinor responds that if she was concerned with legallity she wouldn’t be breaking into the castle would she? The celt seems distinctly unimpressed with Benito but explains Mervane was arrested for some unknown reason and confined in the dungeons below the castle, he was always trusted as an advisor by Godric and indeed, Godric had talked about peace between Saxony and Celtia. She doesn’t know why the Regent confined Mervane in the dungeons.
Back at the castle, trying desperately to save Wulfric’s life Ozuchi attempts something that he has only heard of before in the legends of the Komodo tribe, he attempts to bind his spirit into the body of Wulfric to heal him; the komodo spirit asks if he is sure, since it may not be able to seperate from the body of the human until he dies? Ozuchi tells it that he is sure without any hesitation and the spirit curls up on Wulfrics chest and sinks into his body; Ozuchi begins his ritual, chanting as he dances around Wulfric’s bed and burns healing incense.
The rest of our heroes plan to return to the castle and how to get Asinor inside, Benito suggests that the woman hang off his arm to get into the castle; she doesn’t agree saying that she is a Celt warrior and not some whore to hang on his arm. Approving of the warriors honour Kron volunteers to carry her back across the roof and through Wulfrics window, she accepts and they do this whilst Benito and Horesh head back into the castle via the door. When they arrive they see Wulfric on the bed with his arms crossed over him and spiritual essence enveloping him, chalk marks are everywhere, the smell of herbs and incense fills the room. Ozuchi is on the floor with his eyes rolled back in his head; Horesh knows that the Celts have their own spiritual traditions and priests, the woman doesn’t seem too unnerved and, although not a spirit user herself, she’s probably seen or been involved in some spiritual ceremonies.
Kron kneels besides the body and finds that Wulfric is breathing shallowly; Horesh begins apologising to Asinor for injuring her, she says an apology is not necessary and that, in his place, she would not have been so restrained. Whilst this is going on and, realising that he is still clad only in his longjohns, Benito goes to get dressed.
Wulfric gasps, rolls onto his side and vomits the poison out of his body; his eyes open but he doesn’t speak, his eyes now appear entirely black resembling those of Ozuchi’s one-time familiar, Ozuchi comes out of his trance and slumps onto the floor, Horesh makes sure he is comfortable, he smiles in satisfaction and passes out. As Benito returns, Kron offers a rare prayer to a norse god for Wulfric’s safety and, exhausted, everyone goes to sleep.
They are all aWoken next morning by a trumpet sounding in the courtyard below and the Regent’s heralds announce that the grand tournament of arms is being held, the main price a purse of gold, all applicants are to register with Silas before midday, proof of noble birth is required. Horesh wakes first and wakes up Benito who begins to prepare, Ozuchi wakes up and asks Kron if it worked, the Norsican says that he doesn’t know and there has been no change but he knows Ozuchi did all he could, he also explains who Asinor is. Horesh asks Ozuchi to help with the wound he inflicted on Asinor, which he does and also helps Kron to recover from his injuries.
Asinor explains to Ozuchi that she had heard of Wulfric’s wisdom and kindness and she sought his aid to free one of her tribes seers from the castle dungeons, she asks what has happend to him, Ozuchi says that he has tethered his spirit familiar to Wulfric’s soul and that it should heal him. Asinor says that she hasn’t heard of anything like that before and that Wulfric must means a lot to them, Ozuchi replies that he has only heard of it in legend before himself but that Wulfric is an honourable man and he had to try.
Ozuchi suggests that Benito might act as a champion for her tribe and their cause; she seems skeptical, especially when Benito claims to be a king asking first of all where his crowd is and then, in response to his claims of being usurped, responding “A king without a crown or a kingdom is a not a king.” Ozuchi explains that they are attempting to recover Benito’s crown; when Benito tells her to ask the people of Saxony who he is, she seems critical of them, saying “The cities make men weak.” Kron nods in agreement whilst Benito tells her that he is seeking a cure for his curse in this land; Asinor tells him that the Saxon people have nothing but disdain for the ways of the spirit and that none of them can help him, although Mervane might be able to do so, Kron also suggest that Mervane might tell them more of Godric.
Benito, Horesh and Kron go to sign on to tournament, Asinor says that since she cannot go out in the castle she will stay with Ozuchi and guard Wulfric.
Seneschel Silas is sat with writing implements at a small market stall in the courtyard, a line of well-armed Saxons are queued up infront of him; a burley warrior calling himself Lord Barata presents proof of his lineage, he is accepted and then goes and sits on a bench with other warriors. Eventually the PCs reach the head of the line, Silas doesn’t ask for any proof of noble lineage from Benito or Kron and, seeing this, Horesh also enters. The Heralds announce that the tournament is taking place in the field behind the castle shortly and the competitors are lead to the field.
Names for first round of the grand melee are drawn at random, and it is announced that the tournament will be fought with the last man standing being the winner. In the first round Kron is chosen to fight against Captain Benito; Kron since he doesn’t want to injure Benito says they should fight without weapons, Benito doesn’t agree (realising that he would undoubtably lose such a fight). Horesh whistles and gestures towards a large group of urchins who have gathered and are cheering Benito, the ex-Pirate King shakes hands with Kron and whispers that he’s attempting to win to help the downtrodden of Saxony rather than for his own benefit. Kron nods and says he respects Benito’s views but that he is talking to a Norsican who is trying to appease a lifetime of slaughtering Saxons; using his dirty fighting skills, whilst still shaking hands, Benito draws his sword and attempts to hit Kron with the hilt, the Norsican leaps backwards, his warrior instincts allowing him to avoid the blow and swings his hammer up under Benito’s chin, lifting him off the ground and rendering him unconscious.
Benito’s fans start booing Kron and a few voices shout “Norsican scum!” A number of local maidens run on to the field and start tending to Benito; Kron tells crowd he fights for honour, not money and that the crowd can have the money if he wins, but they seem unconvinced and continue to boo him.
In the second round Kron is drawn against Lord Barata; the tall man, long black hair and beard, garbed in plate and chainmail, hefts a double handed axe, nods curtly and the bout begins. Kron hurls himself into Barata, putting his full weight behind it and throwing the Saxon to the ground, Barata pulls out a small dagger from his greaves and tries to stab Kron, the two grapple and roll across the field. Thinking back to his earlier encounter with Asinor, Kron headbutts Barata who staggers backwards, swaying, and then collapses. Kron bows curtly to the Regent and then gives a respectful bow to Emma the wife of King Godric; Emma nods and drops a silk handkerchief in front of Kron, he picks up the handkerchief (initialled E.H) and tucks it into his grieves, the Regent shoots her a cold look.
Some of the crowd seem to have been won over by Kron and tentatively start cheering for him whilst Ozuchi and Asinor watch the spectacle from the tower window; Kron fights his way through about 18 rounds before he is picked to fight against Horesh. Horesh walks out pulling up his hood. Kron offers to fight again without weapons and wishes Horesh luck, Horesh says that he would prefer weapons and draws his daggers. The crowd are all now cheering for Gunnar and an old woman shouts for Gunnar to “kill him.”
Horesh stabs Kron, avoiding his attempts to bat away the daggers, dancing around Kron his knives slice out several times, but the Norsican remains standing. Horesh goes to sidestep a blow and stumbles, Kron takes advantage and smashes Horesh to the ground with his mighty hammer.
Kron fights another 12 bouts, winning each one.
Frowning the Regent gestures to Silas who announces Kron the winner and gives him a leather purse of gold, the crowd are all cheering for Kron. Horesh walks out and raises Kron’s arm, Kron hands the prize money to Benito who says the money is for the people to much cheering. With the crowd behind them, Kron gestures to Horesh, Horesh throws Gunnar’s wrist into the air shouting “This is your champion, Gunnar Kron.”
Ozuchi notices a number of archers taking position on the battlements around the castle, Gunnar whispers to Horesh to focus on supporting Emma rather than overthrowing the Regent or a they’ll get a lot of people killed; Horesh announces that they have come here in challenge of the Regent with Lord Wulfric and that the people now live in chains, benevolent Emma is the rightful ruler and she needs protecting. Horesh continues to shout that the royal family needs to be in charge, the Regent has been in charge too long, for too long they have lived in squalor.
Horesh is cut off from his tirade about everyone deserving fair treatment and that the Regent must be overthrown, returning power to Emma when the Regent stands and in a cold voice says “How dare you?” Decrying them as foreigners coming to his kingdom, whom they welcomed, and now who spurn their hospitallity and challenge their way of life, the Regent is interrupted by Horesh’s mocking tones saying that they accepted nothing, they are here on behalf of the people, not the Regent. The Regent glares at Horesh whilst the gathered crowd seem a little unsure what is going on and who to support.
Watching the action from the tower, Ozuchi manages to wake Wulfric, a forked tongue flickers out of the Lord’s mouth as he rises; Ozuchi tells Wulfric he has been chosen by the dragons to lead his people until Godric returns and that he must speak to his people. Below the Regent is shouting back, cursing the heroes for spurning the laws of hospitality and mocking their traditions when a shout goes up from the crowd as they spot Wulfric in window. People start panicking as they see the reptilian characteristics evident on Wulfric’s face, the Regent’s voice cries out “See these foreigners have corrupted one of our own Lords, their medicine men bring evil spirits to possess and control us!”
Taking the opportunity Kron moves closer to Emma and asks whether she wants him to seize the throne, she tells him no and whispers for him to get to the dungeons and that he’ll understand; covering their conversation, she pretends to slap the Norsican and seizes back the handkerchief that she gave him earlier during the tournament.
Ozuchi and Benito run through the castle towards the dungeon.
The Regent decries Horesh as a black robed sorceror in league with the Norsicans who has conjured demons to control them; in reply Kron shout that, despite having done many terrible things, he is nowhere near as awful as the Regent and that he has no desire for the crown himself.
There are few guards really in dungeon, Ozuchi expects they’ve been called upstairs to deal with the situation. Benito and Ozuchi are chatting, they hear something and Benito looks around, when he looks back Ozuchi is gone, as two guards walk round the corner Benito’s fists lashs out from the shadows and knock them unconscious; one of the guards has dropped a hammer on floor outside on of the cells. A figure wearing brown tatty robes sits in cell and an old voice asks who is there, saying “I knew someone would come eventually.”
The old man introduces himself as Mervane and explains that he cannot leave the dungeons, he has forseen a time of darkness for the nation, the king will fall and the land be washed away in blood.
“Ah you have seen it too, I can see it in your eyes,” he says looking at Ozuchi, he tells them that the king has already fallen and the Regent will take rulership, but he will be a weak ruler; the Northern Warlord that he warned Godric about (starting the crusade, although Mervane asked him not to go) will sweep south and conquer Saxony, the future of the nation lays with Emma’s unborn child, the once and future king of Saxony.
Mervane explains that he dare not leave his cell because the Regent has threatened to kill Emma and child if he escapes, if they can rescue Emma and child he will free himself and teach the child what it needs to know to reclaim the kingdom and unite Saxony & Celtia. Ozuchi picks up the fallen hammer and smashes Mervane’s shackles. Benito is affected emotionally by the story because the usurpation of a throne is very familiar to him; before they leave he asks Mervane about his curse. Mervane says that he has trained with the travelling people and knows much about curses; he gestures for Benito to move closer, puts his hand on Benito’s face and tells him to think back to when the curse was first placed on him.