I wanted to remove the springwort immediately. Obviously, between drinking the tainted water and cooking with it, the villagers were probably approaching dangerous levels of springwort poisoning. There is no antitode, and no way to counteract the springwort in the water barrels: draining the barrels was the only way to protect the village.

By the feel of the air and the appearance of the sky over the mountains, I was sure rain would fall during the evening, enough to partially replenish the water we were about to dump onto the ground. Birds flying low clinched my intuition: they only do so when rain is near.

Ash came with me, so that he could smell the barrels that were tainted and maybe we wouldn't have to empty all of them. Benito and Guido had invited us all to the Red Bull for dinner. Around the fourth hour of the afternoon, everyone else went there, while Ash and I searched out the village's water supply.

We started at the dorfricther's house. His housekeeper appeared immediately, and was extremely annoyed. She hustled me inside to take me to her master. We left Ash outside while I followed her through the house to the dorfrichter's office. She told him what I had been doing and waited for him to order me away angrily. He was obviously busy with his decision, and he didn't really tell her what was going on. Nevertheless, he said, "Yes, I know, let her dump the water," and shooed us away. Outside his office, she went into a tirade and stalked off, leaving me to find my own way out. By the time I got back outside, Ash had already puled the plug, letting the water drain away. We replaced the plug before moving on to the Red Bull.

It, too, was tainted. We drained it without being noticed. Next, the general store, and it was tainted. We started draining it, but Brunhilda and her sister immediately accosted us. With sticks. I explained again, this time explicitly mentioning that we were doing this with the full knowledge and permission of the dorfrichter. Brunhilda sniffed at the barrel and said it smelled fine to her. She asked who was doing this, but I didn't know. Still, she accepted my story and actually knocked the plug out herself.

In fact, she accompanied us as we walked through the town draining water barrels. Ash said the baker's water smelled fine, but we already knew it had to be tainted because we knew the bread itself was. Brunhilda explained the matter to the annoyed baker's wife, who allowed us to proceed.

In fact, that was repeated everywhere we went. With Brunhilda vouching for us, we were allowed to drain water barrels with little opposition. We drained Leafglow's water, the Black Eagle's, the brewer's, and the Helmsman's. We didn't drain the doctor's: Ash said he couldn't tell for sure, and the doctor objected strongly. If his water was tainted, it's his lookout. Ash slipped over the wall at Gherig's house. He said he was certain is wasn't tainted, so he let it be.

I thanked Brunhilda, and then Ash and I joined the others at the Red Bull. José asked us about Sir Theodosius's water, but I had forgotten it entirely. This became an expedition: Miara, José, Prestley, Hy, and Carmella came with us. Jason returned to the Black Eagle, and Goldrim was enjoying the beer at the Red Bull.

Most of us hadn't been to Weilerburg before; only Miara and her cousin had. It was merely a collection of small houses grouped near one large house, which had been Sir Theodosius's. It was walled, but the gates opened easily. José yelled out,"Hello the House!" to be sure we weren't walking in on someone, but there was no answer. Prestley looked carefully to see if the gate was trapped in some way, but said he didn't find any. Remembering the myriad traps in the woods, I was happy.

We found four water barrels, but Ash didn't detect any springwort. That surprised me, as he had acted more paranoid and unhinged than anyone, but I guess he was just that way naturally. We didn't drain the barrels, leaving the water for those who lived out there. José went up and knocked on the door, and again no on answered. He checked and said the door was locked. Prestley looked through the door and saw nothing unusual and no people. He wiggled the door handle and said, "No, it's open," and opened the door. Miara asked why we were entering the house, since the water barrels are outside, not in. José answered, to check on the servants, since we haven't seen anybody. Although the answer sounded good, I often think he's just looking for excuses to satisfy his boundless curiousity. Varina's monks are known for that, although the stringent honesty Varina requies of them usually prevents them from serious wrongdoing.

Inside, José said there was no evidence of magic. Everything was quiet and untouched, and the house had the feel of an empty house. Miara figured that since Sir Theodosius was dead, the servants probably just returned to their families.

As we left the house, Prestley locked the door behind him.

We returned to the Red Bull for dinner. José got somewhat tipsy waiting for the Dorfrichter's final judgement. He said he may not get anything to drink in jail. Miara told him that she foresaw him spending no time in jail. I don't think she was just comforting him: I had a feeling that even if the dorfrichter ruled against us, she had plans. I knew she wouldn't let any harm come to her cousin, and she seems to have some genuine feeling of responsibility for the rest of us, although she acts as though she'd be happy to be rid of us sometimes.

At last, the Dorfrichter appeared, after dinner, and asked to speak with Miara and anyone else who was interested. Needless to say, we all gatherred closely around him.

He didn't mention the inquest, but first said that he wished to hire us to find those who were working against the village and asked what it would cost. Miara looked to Carmella, as she always does as soon as money comes into the picture. Goldrim was loudly adamant that we not stay here in "this nasty place."

Miara was silent for a few moments, and we waited for her to come up with an answer. We all felt that her answer may affect the outcome of the inquest, and I was certain she was considering that as well.

She finally told Carmella to settle the price, but to include room and board at the Red Bull. Carmella dickered with the dorfrichter, and they came to an agreement.

Once that was settled, the dorfrichter gave his judgement: It was his opinion that Sir Theodosius was killed in a lawful and justified battle between him and the Nipponese noble lady Miara and her entourage. He didn't mention José, and I think the inclusion of "her entourage" erased his part, because he technically wasn't part of "her entourage".

José asked the dorfrichter about the poultice lady. We learned that her family has been here a long time, probably as far back as the "late unpleasantness". I thought that it was a shame that I never got a chance to look at Ziggy's body. It was long-since buried and too late now. He did say he'd let us see the diary and letter.

Then we asked about Gherig: when did he come to town, and where did his money come from? The dorfrichter said he had a lot of money, but didn't know where it came from. He was not from here, but had moved here within recent memory. He owned half the town: destroying it would not be in his interest. José thought it could be a scheme to get the rest of the town under his control: run people off, acquire the rest on the cheap, then hire new people to come in and settle.

He asked me about springwort, so I relayed the usual information one finds in herbiaries. It grows in upland meadows and is harvested all spring and summer. It would almost certainly grow in this general area somewhere. It can also be used dried, and that's most likely how it was being used here. It was probably brewed into a tea, then placed into the water barrels. Considering the low dosage and the effect we've seen so far, it probably has to be added often. We decided to set hidden watches on all the barrels after it rains to see who comes by to poison it.

Prestley said he could watch the Red Bull's barrels from his room. From the woods, Ash could both hide easily and see the dorfrichter's, the baker's, and the brewer's. From another spot in the woods, Hy could see other barrels in the town.

The dorfrichter asked for the attention of the room, and he announced his decision for the inquest. Everyone cheered. Benito also had an announcement: the Red Bull inn was officially closing as of tonight to arrange its transfer to new owners. Bills need to be settled, and anyone who has rented rooms would be refunded. He suggested they move to the Black Eagle, which he was pretty sure would have vacancies.

We had no time to ponder over the meaning of his words, because he immediately walked over to us, papers in hand and the dorfrichter at his side. He said he wished to sign over the Red Bull to us. José declined, saying since we travel, who would run the place? Benito said he might know someone in Hilea, but it would be at least a month before he could find out. José brought Jason over from the Black Eagle with Goldrim's help. Carmella signed the documents, and the dorfrichter made it legal with his signature.

Suddenly we were the owners of a house in Mortensholm, the tower in Yetsin Valley, and now this inn. That's a lot of property for a group of people who never sit still.

We moved our belongings to our new inn from the Black Eagle. The staff remained, and only Benito and Guido and Eleanora were leaving. The staff were concerned about the changeover, but Miara told them to just continue running everything as they have been for now. José asked after the accounts, and Benito and Guido said they would go over everything in detail in the morning. José opined that we should hire a Tylean to manage the place.

The Sangioveses said they would leave tomorrow. Benito said that although the hotel was shut down, the kitchen and bar would stay open. As of tomorrow, we'd be in charge and could do as we liked.

That night, Ash, Jason, and Hy went into the woods to keep watch over the dorfrichter's, Leafglow's, and the doctor's water. From upstairs in the Red Bull, we set a watch over the baker's, the general store's, and the Red Bull's water.

In the morning, no one had seen anything, and Ash detected no springwort scent in any of the water. Emptying out the barrels most likely alerted the perpetrators, so they knew they'd be watched.

Hy, as translated by José, said the Miara was not feeling well and would skip breakfast and stay in bed a little late. José cooked breakfast, with Benito's assistance. After breakfast, Carmella, Benito, and José sat in a corner and went over the finances with a fine tooth comb.

The upshot was that the place didn't make much money, but it didn't lose any either. José belived that if we kept most of the place running, it would take care of itself, assuming we find someone who could run it properly. We will need a new cook to replace Benito. For now, José will cook.

Around the tenth hour of the morning, the watch captain came in, wishing to speak with Miara. José asked what he wanted, before deciding whether to disturb her. Brit, the woman who found Julianne Henig, had been killed early this morning, north of here. José, Prestley, and I went with him to see. José told Omi to tell Hy where we were going and to tell Miara what had happened when she emerged.

Brit's brothers had finally been convinced that Julianne Henig was not a vampire and had been trying to convince her of that. The doctor had already been by and pronounced Brit dead. A merchant had found her by the side of the road, just outside town.

The north road goes towards Bretonia, and Weilerburg is northeast of town. The north road runs along the ghost wood north of town, which is where the haunted mansion is, and where Og ran into serious trouble on our previous visit. And Carmella set the woods on fire, for which the druidess of the ghost wood forbade us from ever entering again. I'm pretty sure we're going to have to go to the mansion to finish this out, so we'll have to convince the druidess to allow us back in somehow. Ash, who is on very good terms with all the druidesses we know, may be able to help us out there.

The Stoltenberg brothers were understandably very upset about the death of their sister and wanted vengeance. They had placed the body on the bed. It was obvious what caused her death: a not-very-sharp instrument had been caused somehow to enter her chest. From the splinters in the wound, at first glance it appeared that someone had staked her, as you would a vampire. Of course, it was the other girl who had been supposedly attacked by a vampire, not Brit. There were no other obvious signs of trauma.

On closer inspection, I determined that she had died early in the morning rather than late last night. After death, she had laid face down for a while. That made me pause: stabbed in the chest, yet laying on it instead of on her back as I would expect. José talked with the her brothers while I examined their sister's body. I didn't know if he did it on purpose, but I was glad that he kept them distracted during my autopsy. She had no defensive wounds, so I deduced that she either knew the person or the attack was a complete surprise. Of course, if someone you knew suddenly pushed a stake through your chest, it would have to be a surprise.

I finished the autopsy. José went back to the inn to fetch Ash. They both returned about ten minutes later. The villagers were already talking about the death. Of course, it was all superstitious nonsense: there had been a Brit in the Reichenbach family, so this was another token of the curse.

José asked the brothers if they were related to the Reichenbachs, and they said no, The Watch captain did say the Stoltenburgs were here back then, though. I didn't really think any of this was rooted in the events of 200 years ago, and I was sure the other agreed: this was a modern plot.

José decided to go back to the Helmsman to talk to the merchant, and Prestley went back to the Red Bull.

The watch captain led Ash and me north to look at site of her death. The merchant found the body at the side of the road, ten or fifteen minutes outside of town. Ash said we were along the edge of the ghost wood, which was along one side of the road. At the site, there was a big pool of blood. I looked around and saw where she was moved around by someone. Ash reconstructed the scene: The merchant had a wagon pulled by a single horse. He stopped, got out, walked through the blood, picked her up, saw she was dead, and carried her to his wagon and into town. There were clear signs that she ran out of the ghost wood at a high speed and a jagged stump, covered with blood, next to her body. So, she had run scared, tripped and fell, and stabbed herself by falling onto this particular stump. Which explained how she had been stabbed in the chest and yet lay on her face after her death. But what had frightened her so much? The reputed beastmen we didn't believe in? Something else?

Ash and I backtracked her trail the edge of the ghost wood. The watch captain warned us not to go into the ghost woods, and he was not willing to come with us. And I shouldn't have entered at all. We followed her obvious pell-mell run about 100 feet into the ghost wood. At that point, it looked like she had been picking berries. Ash found the transition from picking to running. It looked like she was met by a very large individual with really big feet in boots.

As we turned to follow the boottracks, we heard the watch captain and the dorfrichter, who hadn't come out with us, yelling from the road. There was clearly trouble and we turned back.

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 ~