Before leaving for the black stump, Miara told the dorfrichter that the woman was the fake vampire. He said she didn't look like a vampire, and I said that was the point. She was only pretending. I said, "Look, it's broad daylight and she was walking around normally." These people don't know anything about vampires.

Finally we left. Goldrim, Omi, and Sun stayed behind, but everyone else came along.

We followed the directions we'd been given and easily found the scraggly black stump in a clearing of grass. It had been a very large tree, and it kind of looked like it was reaching into the sky.

Prestley looked inside the tree and said there was nothing special about it. Hy and Ash hunted around, trying to find tracks and traces of the woman. I looked for signs of manbane. They were more successful than I was: there was no manbane here.

There had been people camping there recently; signs of a recent campfire, tents, and Ash found the woman's scent. She left in a hurry in the direction from which we came. The tracks/smell of two others headed north, away from the camp.

We followed the tracks north. We come across another campsite, with a tent, empty of people. They haven't been gone long: Ash said not more than a day. They also hadn't been here very long. They hand't built a campfire yet.

Ash said they arrived here 3 or 4 hours ago, and left in a hurry in the last 3 or 4 minutes. We nearly had them!

Ash, Miara, and Hy went ahead of us, following the tracks very quietly. The rest of held back a while because none of us could move as quietly as they and we didn't want to alert the ones we chased.

We probably held back more than necessary. We caught up to them about twenty minutes later. There was a man on the ground bound and gagged. It looked like Ash had nearly buried his axe in the man's skull, and he had a large goose egg on the side of his head. He had been cared for, though, and he was merely unconscious and no longer bleeding.

Miara said he'd been casting spells and was carrying the weird things typically carried by spellcasters. The other man was nowhere to be seen. Was he watching us from under cover of the forest, or had he escaped, running from us?

This one had a license on him, so he was licensed to perform magic. Of course, he could pay heavily for attacking people with magic. His name was Frederik Herkenrath. We discussed what to do with him. It would take days for him to recover enough for us to interrogate him, and I wouldn't be able to just cure him with others looking on. We decided the thing to do was that I would heal him just enough so that we could easily wake him up once we handed him over to the dorfrichter without attracting attention. I worked on him while they gathered up things from the tent.

There was really only one thing that you don't normally find at a campsite: the partly-used vial of manbane. I took charge of that. It can be used to help people, if used properly. There was the equivalent of three or four more lethal doses in it.

We carried Herkenrath and the equipment from the campsite back to the dorfrichter's office. The woman was locked up in the guardhouse and was still unconscious. José said if we bound his hands, covered his mouth, made sure that he had nothing, and watched him carefully, we wouldn't have to worry about him trying to cast a spell. We took his advice and placed him in the cell next to the woman's. I looked in on her, and I estimated she'd remain asleep, recovering from the poison, for another one to three days.

Jason held Herkenrath, I stood near him so I could revive him, Ash and Miara stood in front to ask him questions. Everyone else waited outside the cell, including the dorfrichter. I revived him and the questioning began.

They started with the basics and got nothing. He insisted he'd just been out collecting herbs to take back to Nuln with him to sell. He went on at some length, detailing what he was looking for. I suppose to anyone without an herbalist's knowledge, he would have sounded quite reasonable. Unfortunately for him, I knew he was talking nonsense, and I said so.

He told us Martin wanted the herbs, he was only doing what Martin said. We asked if Martin was the third person who ran off, and he tried to insist there were only two of them: he and Martin. He would not admit knowing the woman, although we knew she'd been there and poisoned by one of them. He also said he didn't know the doctor, and insisted he and Martin had been quietly collecting herbs when they were attacked by a mob. I hid a smile: I imagine Miara, Ash, and Hy might very well look like a mob to the person being attacked by them. Between Hy's bizarre tumbling, Miara's impression of a windmill, and Ash swinging axes around his head, they were intimidating.

Miara tried to threaten him with death, but he stuck with his story even while begging desperately for his life. The dorfricther and the watch captain were not comfortable with Miara's barbaric suggestions, but they went along with it as long as it remained a threat only.

We kept at him for a while, going around and around in circles and getting nowhere. He knew nothing, he was collecting herbs for Martin, and that was it. We asked about various things that happened around the village: beastmen, the tainted water, the ghost and skeletons in the cemetary. He knew nothing.

Then someone mentioned Brit's death and he completely freaked out. He jabbered that he'd personally had nothing to do with her death. He thought Martin did it but didn't know why he would do something to terrible. He broke down and said he'd tell us everything, but please believe him that he didn't cause the girl's death.

Gherig and Martin had hired him and the others to scare the villagers into leaving. No one was supposed to get hurt. Once the girl got killed, all hell broke loose. He thought the purpose behind it all was to be able to buy property up in the town on the cheap.

His part was to create scary illusions. The woman was just a hired hand. She accused Martin of killing the girl, and he thinks Martin put something in her food. We corroborated his guess.

I asked about the skeletons: who had raised them? Martin gave him a ring to raise the dead with. He raised them and told them not attack anyone, just to scare them. The ring was in the stuff we brought back, but it no longer had any special properties. He admitted using a harmless dye to color the river red. Stapmi had put the springwort in the water barrels. We asked how Martin was able to leave no tracks behind him, and he said he had special boots.

Once we had the whole story, Miara asked the dorfricther what to do with him. He said he'd send to Nuln for people to take him there for trial, unless we wanted the job. She didn't say anything, but I'm pretty sure we don't want that job.

Next: we had to find and capture Martin and Gherig. Gherig and Stapmi needed to be arrested and sent to Nuln.

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 ~