We set up a watch for each room, since there were several of us in each. I took last watch. Early in the morning, around dawn, I heard a loud bang downstairs that sounded like the front door, and then a feminine voice in hysterics. Almost afraid of what had happened now, I awakened the others. Miara immediately grabbed her long sword and went downstairs.

I stayed put. I heard voices and crying for a short while, then Miara came back upstairs and told us the news. Apparently the baker had never returned from his midnight jaunt in the forest: the pig had come home alone and the baker's wife was certain that he'd been kidnapped and or killed. I could guess that she hadn't been very clear, and I'm sure Miara couldn't have caught everything she said. At any rate, Miara was all ready to go searching for the missing baker, which surprised me. José also wished to go, as did Hy, Ash, me, and Carmella.

At first, Goldrim was uninterested in the mission, but as we readied ourselves he had one if his visions. He said he saw many flowers blooming at high speed, like he was watching a whole spring in mere minutes. He saw a large man on a horse, wearing full armor. The man was looking angrily at someone Goldrim couldn't see and "had the look of a man who had been wronged by the one who he was glaring at". We had no idea what that might mean, but Goldrim decided to accompany us after all.

The pig also came with us, partially leading the way like a dog searching fos its master. We walked to where I had seen the baker entering the woods last night. Hy and the pig found the exact spot, but the Hy didn't seem sure where to go. Ash did his bloodhound trick, we follwed him into the woods, followed by the pig. José grabbed the pig's collar with his hook so it wouldn't wander off or get in the way. It was clear that the pig also wanted to go the same way Ash indicated.

The woods, being close to town, were very clear with no underbrush. Picked clean for firewood. After a while, though, we came to much thicker woods. The pig and the trail led us us past a sign that said "Trespassers will be impaled, ordered by Sir Theodosius van Eisenstadt." Goldrim remembered the name.

Miara thought we should ask the Count for permission before entering the woods. The rest of us thought that was silly: the baker could be lying just in the woods, hurt. What the Count didn't know wouldn't hurt him, or us. But she refused to follow us, and she walked away, north towards where the Count lived, Hy following her as always.

Once past the sign, the woods became much thicker. Ash and the pig agreed on the direction, and we followed. We hadn't taken very many steps befpre a trap slammed shut on José's ankle. It was large, clearly set to catch people rather than the small animals one usually traps, and I couldn't budge it. Goldrim, with a great effort, managed to remove it from José's leg, and I carefully examined it. His ankle was obviously broken, so I took the time to heal it. No-one minded waiting. My medical skills are getting rusty: I rarely have the time to use them properly.

As we started in again, José suggested that we proceed carefully and use sticks to probe as we walked. We all picked up long sticks and follwed his advice. It wasn't long before Ash stopped and swept the leaves from what was another trap. We continued on, carefully. I sent bad wishes to the Count, who set traps like that for people.

We steadily made our way sort of north-easterly. Then we heard a voice in the distance address us, "You are trespassing, leave now." The voice was far enough away so that we couldn't see the speaker. José answered it, "We are in search of a lost man. Can you help us?"

The answer was not encouraging. "If he's lost in these woods, he's trespassing and shouldn't be found."

"That's not very neighborly."

"Neither is trespassing."

"Come closer, and let's talk about this face to face."

"We can talk face to face in Weilerberg."

"Come and lead us, and perhaps on the way, we'll find our missing friend."

"Return to the road, and I'll meet you in Weilerberg in a few minutes."

Carmella then piped up. "Who are you?"

"Dietrich Grandel, the Count's gamekeper. Move along."

José answered again. "OK, the road is east? West?"

"Turn and go the way you came."

Ash disappeared into the trees. The rest of us started to back off, but the pig didn't want to come with us. José asked quietly if we wanted an excuse to keep going forward, and I nodded: I didn't trust the gamekeeper or his Count, and I was worried about the baker. José "accidentally" let the pig go and shouted "Oh no! After the pig!" Goldrim starting crashing through the trees after the pig, and the rest of followed more cautiously, remembering the traps.

We found a ruined cottage in something that resembled a clearing. I could see the body of the baker on the ground, dead or unconscious I couldn't tell. Goldrim had gotten there first and was on the ground looking at the baker. Something hit the ground next to him and exploded into a cloud of dust, covering him completely.

Goldrim thought it was thrown, not dropped, and six other clouds of dust, in different colors, also exploded. Only the black stuff hit Goldrim. José asked what it was, and I said it looked like some kind of mold. I told everyone to step back from the danger.

As I swathed myself in cloth from my pack, Goldrim ran into the ruins of the house. When I had completely covered myself with the gauze, I ran into the clearing after Goldrim and the body. The pig, which had been sniffing around the baker and rooting around in the clearing, had fled at the first explosion of color.

As Goldrim headed into house, more bulbs popped around him. I checked the baker, who was alive but unconscious. He was covered in the multi-colored mold spores and his breathing was weak. In the corner of my vision, I saw Goldrim lit up by fire, and when I glanced at him, arrows from nowhere. We were under attack, and apparently Carmella was at work already. Goldrim hadn't falled in flames, so I surmised that she had managed to control her fire for once. I turned back to the baker and examined the mold spores. I couldn't figure out what they were, but the baker wasn't in danger of immediate death and I couldn't do anything for him right then.

As I stood, several arrows thudded into me. Before I could move, José yelled out "Brace yourselves!" and a strong wind whipped by me. I fell to the ground, pulled the arrows out of myself, and started to tend the wounds, fighting to remain conscious. My head was swimming.

A fireball slammed into the trees where the arrows that hit me came from. I yelled at Carmella to cut that out before she set the forest on fire again. Goldrim had picked up the baker, and I stood up, took a deep breath, and started to follow him. I don't remember anything after that: I must have collapsed from blood loss.

Ravenna, A Monk of the Biancan Order

Part the First:
Blood and Mud

Part the Second:
Murder and Mayhem

Part the Third:
Puzzles and Crystals

Part the Fourth:
Dwarves and Rocks

Part the Fifth:
Diplomacy and Daggers

Part the Sixth:
Crystal and Chaos

Part the Seventh:
Sheer Insanity

~ The End ~