Tuesday, January 8, 2013
First 18 Days in the Mountains
Two and a half weeks have passed without any news, and the party has begun to settle themselves in Hadji Lazaro's camp. There have been three steady snowfalls, and occasional brief flurries, all in the morning or mid-day. By afternoon, it is usually chilly or brisk, and yielding a little drizzle as it is a bit too warm for snow. Some days there's a wild wind, but in the sheltered meadow, it is usually something seen in the clouds, whipping overhead, rather than felt.
There has been surprisingly much to do. The party have gotten to know their guards well - though I'll skip over naming them all, until asked to do so (I'd rather not). A careful count identifies 94 men, women and children in the settlement, with 41 men, 38 women and 15 children - these last range in age between seven months old and six years. No child over six years is in the village, which Lazaro explains is because each season, once a boy or girl reaches that age, they are placed with family or in an artisan's shop to learn a decent trade.
Abantes, Lazaro's son, expresses an interest in Ahmet's swordsmanship, and offers to give Ahmet pointers on how to better use a scimitar. This could explain why Ahmet's THACO improves one point from what it was before, from 17 to 16 ... for I would assume even Ahmet is wise enough to know when someone pleasantly offers to spar with him for his own good. Lukas even sits in now and then, finding that his THACO has also improved by a point, from 21 to 20. Abantes proves to be a decent fellow, and tells Ahmet of how he and his father are from Epirus, in northern Greece, and that they are neither one of them Italian. This, says Abantes, is the reason why his father takes a title usually associated with chieftains in Macedonia and Thrace, rather than an Italian title.
Sofia rambles over the whole area, keeping a sharp eye out for anything that catches her eye. She sees some places where the rocks on the cliff walls are designed to come loose, should anyone attempt to climb out. She judges the water fall, and assures herself that yes, the cliff is almost certain death for anyone to climb down while the water is running. She takes her best chances to identify the location of the mechanism that allows the gate above the waterfall to move, cutting off the water--where she learns it runs into 'swallow hole' a foot wide, too deep to reckon. She finds no sign of mines, underground passages, concealed holes or anything to suggest a dungeon beneath the meadow. She watches the others fish the stream and takes a hand at it, throughly enjoying herself.
Lukas learns there's a library ... some two hundred books altogether, kept in the best house of the settlement, Lazaro's. There are books on Italian history, civil engineering and design, painting, aesthetics--and much to Andrej's surprise, when Lukas tells him--five books upon pastoral work. There's more than enough material for Andrej to practise with, and Lukas can at least teach him his ABC's, as well as getting him to sound out his vowels and consonents. Andrej seems to have a bit of a flair for it.
Maximillian does get to know the party fairly well, but he and Mareo still keep mostly to themselves. For Maximillian, this is an opportunity to at least reasonably investigate the high country of the Tyrolese Alps in November. He may have ventured up here for a day or two, but this is far longer than he's ever been, and he's had quite a number of unexpected sightings of birds, small animals and the like. I believe that he has speak with animals as a spell, though I may be wrong. He hasn't had a chance to use the spell if he has, but he has continually looked for such an opportunity.
Hadji Lazaro has brought up many of the party's things, including Lukas' spellbook (which Lazaro is keeping under lock and key, but wishes Lukas to know it is safe), Andrej's requested Bible, the party's weapons, all their equipment and so on. This is guarded by a goodly sum of the guards, in a heavy wooden hut with a door so small one must get on one's hands and knees to go through it. In particular, Lazaro adores the complicated barrel, and spends an afternoon experimenting and playing with it. He offers to trade his mace - which he calls Aksion Spacimo - for it.
There are other surprises ... Hadji Lazaro spends more than half his day, every day, hearing accounts, having letters read aloud to him, dictating letters and apparently managing assets in Switzerland, Dalmatia, Greece, Florence and Modena, and of course in Bozen. Maximillian overhears that the bandit chief gave - without expecting compensation - 3,500 gold pieces to the Baron of Klausen, a castle along the road between Brixen and Bozen, which the party passed on their way, for the repairing of the road there. "Fewer people have travelled along it, giving us fewer people to rob," says Lazaro in a letter.
Lukas heard that Lazaro donated 40 of his men to the Duke of Urbino, to help break the Spanish siege on the city, that had been going on for two months. Sofia overhears that he had donated a small galley, "until the next summer months," to the Govenor of Rovigo, to help better patrol the lower marshes of the Po, where it had been reported that sahuagin from the Adriatic were raiding.
On the 18th two significant events happen.
The first, Maximillian is in the small woods, amid the stand of poplars, examining the bark of trees to learn what he may, when he notices that the guard has wrapped himself heavily in his cloak, and has fallen asleep while leaning between two close-growing trees, enabling Maximillian to throw a spell. There is a chipmunk on a log, about ten feet away, watching the druid observing the guard.
Near to the same time, Sofia finds the mechanism, at last, and has a few seconds to examine how it works. She rolls under her find/remove traps, and sees in a moment how it is moved so the stream can be diverted.