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No Salvation For Witches (LotFP - IC)

ZincStandard

Super-Earth
Joined
Feb 19, 2019
17:00, May 4th, 1627
Edington, Caversdale County


It's obvious from a hundred paces that something is wrong in the village ahead.

In the fading light of dusk, torch flames patrol between the huddle of buildings, their glow sheltering groups of men who move shoulder-to-shoulder, fearful eyes darting all about, clutching pitchforks, war scythes, one or two short spears. The place isn't much to look at, perhaps fifteen families by the number of houses; these are farmers, watchful of something that has them terrified. The picture resolves further as you approach; every door is shut tight, bar four that look like they were battered down, windows shattered. Apart from the armed watchers, no one is to be seen out and about.

There's not much concealment to be had, following the road as you have been, and your approach is as visible to the sentries waiting at the edge of the village as they are to you. A bearded man of middle age grips an arquebus, rust visible on the barrel even from calling distance; flanked by two lads who can't be more than eighteen, he steps into the road, standing firm. Taking a stance that looks practiced, he raises the weapon. "That's close enough!" His shout carries; another group passing near notices the scene, and moves to reinforce the first. You face seven men, white-knuckling their makeshift arms, none yet pointed at you besides the marksman.

You're used to suspicious welcomes, but this is something else. These people look like the hosts of Hell have ridden over them, and they're not yet sure if you've come to finish the job.
 

greybishop

Star
Joined
Jan 29, 2019
Location
USA East Coast
Jack stops when the bearded man calls out and raises his empty hands to about shoulder height, in what he hopes is a placating gesture. Then he calls back, "Easy friend, we're just three weary travelers looking for a place to spend the night. What on earth has happened to your village?"
 
Joined
Oct 31, 2017
Location
USA
Silence grips the clothes around her torso tightly, as if to shield herself from the elements as she looks to the ground, staring at the gravel beneath her feet. She had an ominous feeling that something dark had raked these houses not long before their arrival, perhaps a punishment for their sins, and yet this did not feel like a Godly sentence. "They should have Faith," Silence whispered softly to her companions. "He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."

The young woman looked up briefly to scan the wretched looking houses, shuttered tight as if to weather a great storm. There is no lamb's blood. Silence frowned with concern, before returning her gaze downward. With her right hand, she felt for the good book hidden within her ragged petticoat and gave it a comforting squeeze.
 

ZRS

Star
Joined
Jan 14, 2019
Elena stops when the rest of her party stops. Like always she had been holding up the rear. She wonders what had happened to the village. Seeing the hold up, she takes a few steps forward and stands a few paces behind Jack. She puts her hands behind her head in a relaxed manner and waits for Jack to do the negotiations. She is not worried about the armed guards since she's quite certain that they're just a bit paranoid thanks to whatever that happened in the village.
 

greybishop

Star
Joined
Jan 29, 2019
Location
USA East Coast
When Silence whispered, Jack glanced over and saw the young woman huddled forlornly in her ragged petticoat. "Hopefully the good Lord will give these men a little common sense right about now," he gruffly whispered back.

Then in much gentler tone he added, "It'll be alright lass, just give them a minute to settle down. But no sudden movements til then, if you please. We wouldn't want these fine gentlemen to think you're the sort of lady who wanders about the countryside with a pistol in her petticoats."
 
OP
Z

ZincStandard

Super-Earth
Joined
Feb 19, 2019
In the flickering torchlight, you see the marksman's eyes narrow. "Just travelers, eh? Coming here armed at a time like this? Bullshit. How do we know you're not with them?" He says it like everyone knows who he means, and his companions all seem to. Beside him, a few of the farmers glance uncertainly from your weapons to their leader to one another, but no one says anything immediately.
 

greybishop

Star
Joined
Jan 29, 2019
Location
USA East Coast
Jack replies to the marksman in a calm, clear voice. "Friend, you carry yourself like an old soldier. I'm an old soldier too, so I can understand you wanting to protect your village - that's why you and the lads are armed. It's the same with us. The roads are dangerous, and highwaymen might think a lone man and two lasses are easy pickings."

In a slightly louder voice, he continues to the group as a whole. "Now lads, this is your village. So if you want us to leave, just say the word - it won't be the first night we've slept in the woods. But if you could use a hand dealing with ... whatever happened here, maybe we could help you good folks out. Provided someone's willing to tell us a little more about what's befallen your village, that is."
 
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OP
Z

ZincStandard

Super-Earth
Joined
Feb 19, 2019
There's a silence. It's hard to tell what the bearded fellow is thinking, but you could swear you see his shoulders relax just a little. However, he doesn't lower his gun right away.

"Jack...what if they're telling the truth?" The question comes from a pimply young lad with a war scythe, holding a step behind the leader. His eyes have the sunken look of hunger you've all grown accustomed to seeing of late, but behind them, you see a spark of hope as he lowers his weapon by a hair. "I-if they can help..."

The man with the arquebus--Jack, presumably--doesn't take his eyes off you, but you can almost hear him weighing the options. Finally, he jerks his head toward the lad who spoke up. "Fetch Kyrkwode. You lot," he gestures meaningfully to you with the gun as the lad scampers off into the village, "stay put."

It's only a minute or two before the boy returns, alongside a thin, unassuming-looking man perhaps a bit younger than Jack. Though unarmed, he is steady as he moves to the front of the group, the sentries parting to admit him. He surveys you, his face expressionless, and even from such a distance, you feel pierced, seen straight through.

"So. A band of armed strangers at our doors, tonight of all nights." He speaks softly; it's hard to gauge his tone. "You three have impeccable timing. Tell me, what brings you our way, down this road?"
 

greybishop

Star
Joined
Jan 29, 2019
Location
USA East Coast
Jack looks the new man, who he assumes is Kyrkwode, in the eye as he answers his question in a level tone. "Well now, originally what we sought was a dry place to sleep and some food, if there's any to be had, in return for some coin. Maybe a pint if we were lucky. But I'm thinking now, we might be able to help you and your village in a more ... professional manner. You see, we're more a band of, well, adventurers really. Thrown together by fortune, or maybe the good Lord, we've decided to make our way in this world by lending a hand to good folks such as yourselves when needed, and trying to right wrongs when we can. I'm more than a little handy with my blade after all these years, and the tall lass with the bow? Well, she was able to shoot an apple from a tree at twenty paces back when she was twelve. And the quiet one next to me? Well, she can quote the good Book chapter and verse, and has been ... chosen by the Lord, to be His strong right arm as well, when needs be."

Jack casually pulls his pipe out of a coat pocket, then glances around the village, before once again looking Kyrkwode in the eye. "And by the looks of things around here right about now, I'd say needs be."
 
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ZRS

Star
Joined
Jan 14, 2019
Elena waves a friendly hello when Jack mentions her. After Jack finishes talking, Kathleen asks, "So... what happened here actually? Maybe we can help in some way?"
 
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OP
Z

ZincStandard

Super-Earth
Joined
Feb 19, 2019
Kyrkwode is silent for a long moment, scanning the three of you again with that piercing look. Elena, you have the impression of his eye lingering on you perhaps a second longer, perhaps narrowing a hair, though it's hard to tell.

"I'm not one to believe in coincidence," he finally says. "So I'm left to conclude your arriving here, now, is either a plot by those who threaten us..." He's silent for another beat. "Or providence."

"In any case," he continues, sounding a little more decisive, "other matters call to me tonight. We've a public house; you three can sleep there, under watch. Jack, will you see to it?" Edington's Jack nods. "Thank you," says Kyrkwode, clapping him on the shoulder. "I'll leave you lot in Mr. Thorpe's hands while I consider your offer. In the morning, we'll talk."

Jack Thorpe, apparently, lowers his gun at last, beckoning silently to the three of you as Kyrkwode turns to depart, the lads exchanging uncertain looks before beginning to separate back into the two groups that initially met you.
 

greybishop

Star
Joined
Jan 29, 2019
Location
USA East Coast
After Thorpe beckons, Jack turns towards his two companions, pipe in hand. "Well now, that was all a bit too strange. What do you lasses think? Shall we try the pub here, or rough it again in the woods?" Jack looks down at Silence, a smile on his lips as he continues "You've been awfully quiet. Though that's your way, I know. But you ken these things better than most. What do you think?"
 

ZRS

Star
Joined
Jan 14, 2019
Elena says, quite cheerfully, "Who wouldn't love hitting the pub after so much time traveling? I could really go for ale and good food." She pauses for a bit before continuing, "But... on the other hand, I always did love camping out in the woods and the night sky and the open air is a pretty beautiful thing. I'm fine either way so I'll just leave the decision to you guys." She then says with her normally bubbly voice turned to a more serious tone, "In the end, I think I really would like to know what happened here. I feel kinda bad for the people here and think we should help them out. What do you say?"
 
OP
Z

ZincStandard

Super-Earth
Joined
Feb 19, 2019
Thorpe gives a signal to the boys who were with him as you fall in; they remain at their posts, watching the northwest road for any sign of others approaching after you. Thorpe himself is silent as he leads you down the dusty way into the village center, following Kyrkwode for the first several paces.

As you pass by tight-shuttered houses, you become aware of a buzz of low chatter from somewhere up ahead. The source reveals itself as you round a bend, the buildings giving way to a small village square of sorts, lit by lanterns, beyond which you see a two-story structure that you can guess is the public house Kyrkwode mentioned. That's not what stands out most, though. In the center of the square, a slab of grey stone about half again as high as a person emerges from the ground, near which--keeping a careful distance--is gathered a huddle of men of varying ages, the origin of the voices you'd heard. As they catch sight of Kyrkwode returning, their worried looks momentarily abate, before they notice you not far behind. A few open their mouths to address Kyrkwode, but at a silent gesture from him, they hold their tongues.

Tied to the stone in the center of the square by several loops of rope is a mousy, middle-aged woman, her already plain dress dirty and unnervingly stained. She slumps against her bonds as if unconscious, but as Kyrkwode approaches, her head snaps up, her eyes wide and terrified; her face is puffy and red, still wet with tears. Next to the stone stands a wooden table bearing various tools and implements--sickles, nails, tongs--and a windlass, more rope wound around the cylinder.

Kyrkwode approaches to within close speaking distance. He's facing away from you, but you get the clear impression that he's firmly meeting the woman's gaze. "Have you thought things over?"

The woman trembles, shrinking back against the stone even closer than the ropes are holding her. "Please," she sobs. "Theo, I swear, I've told the truth..."

If Thorpe is surprised or perturbed by the unfolding scene, he gives no sign. Indeed, he doesn't slow his pace, seemingly expecting you all to follow him on to the inn.
 

ZRS

Star
Joined
Jan 14, 2019
As Elena continues to walk she asks Kyrkwode, "What did that woman do? Was she part of an invading bandit gang or something?"
 

greybishop

Star
Joined
Jan 29, 2019
Location
USA East Coast
Jack walks along with his companions, following Thorpe into the small village square. After Elena poses her questions to Kyrkwode Jack mutters to her "That woman is no bandit lass." Jack doesn't really expect Kyrkwode to answer Elena, but he briefly pauses to see if "Theo" responds to the woman bound helplessly to the stone.
 
OP
Z

ZincStandard

Super-Earth
Joined
Feb 19, 2019
Thorpe casts a glare at the stone. "It's nothing that should concern you." He seems disinclined to say any more on the matter, as he pushes open the front door of the public house.

Kyrkwode is stony before the woman's pleading. He turns to the windlass. "Do you know of Saint Erasmus? Patron of sailors. When he confessed his faith before the Emperor Maximian, he was rolled down a hill in a barrel full of spikes, beaten, whipped, and burnt, yet God kept him alive. Finally, the Romans cut his stomach open and wound his intestines around a windlass, slowly puling them from his body, foot by foot, before his eyes." With a hand on the crank, he returns his gaze to the woman, and there is no pity in it. "Do you understand what I'm saying, Mertysa? You may resist the brands, the knives, the tongs. You will not resist this."

Mertysa's wail sounds like a dying animal. "Please...please, I swear...I'm not a witch, I'm not, I'd never..."

The onlookers exchange dark mutterings. Thorpe waits in the doorway, silent, for you to enter.
 

ZRS

Star
Joined
Jan 14, 2019
Elena looks back at the woman and then enters. As she passes Thrope. she says, "So, she's been doing witchcraft? Is that why the town's in a state of unrest?"
 

greybishop

Star
Joined
Jan 29, 2019
Location
USA East Coast
Having seen more than a few battlefield eviscerations, Jack has no particular desire to see what awaits Mertysa and follows Elena into the pub. Once inside he pauses and looks around, in part to get his bearings and in part to see if Thorpe will answer Elena's question.
 
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