The heroes arrived at Castle Balliol in the lands of Clan Marr bearing the trophies from their battle with Green Bertha the next morning.
Shortly after their arrival, and proper welcoming, Thalin and Mikdale were welcomed to the personal chambers of the Mormaer Marr. He informed them that he was grateful they were seeing to his daughters safe escort across the moors. They would be guests of honour at the feast he would offer his daughter tonight. He also had an embarassing request: would they and their party be willing to escort his daughter’s dowry at the same time. He had not had the opportunity to arrange a separate escort for the treasure he was sending with her.
As three guards would accompany the daughter and dowry, Thalin accepted the offer. The Mormaer then showed his guests his latest treasure: a bottle of Alamannian wine he had recently acquired from a Gnomish merchant who was in his lands. They shared a drink. Mikdale was too polite to point out that the wine had started to spoil.
While the nobles were conducting business, other heroes took the opportunity to examine the wares of the local markets, and see what business could be found at Castle Balliol.
Varis the Cleric was soon found by Father Roland, the chaplain to Clan Marr. Father Roland was aware of the mission the heroes had underway, and was glad to see a man of the cloth accompanying them. He asked that Varis undertake to move a large bundle of scriptures to Balliol on his behalf, and assured Varis that the party’s efforts on behalf of the church would be appreciated.
Father Roland also advised Varis others at Castle Balliol would seek to accompany the party as well: most particularly a gnomish money-lender,Simon of Altburg. The Abbot of Birness was quite indebted to Simon’s brother: ruinously indebted, Roland had been advised, and the Monastery had had a hard season. The church would look most favourably on the heroes of Simon’s ledger book were too disappear during the journey. Father Roland reminded Varis that Gnomes were not Aedonites, so this could hardly be considered a sin.
As Varis dealt with Father Roland, Mikdale was approached by the same Simon of Altburg, who recognized Mikdale as being the same Imperial Prince of Alamannia. Mikdale asked Simon to keep his presence a secret, but Simon requested Mikdale and the party escort him to Birness, and advised that the Mormaer had told him they would be travelling that way.
Varis the Sober found himself to the shadier side of the fair, where the more disreputable sorts could be found. He was approached by a scarred-dwarf who asked if he was part of the group going to Birness. When Varis confirmed he was the dwarf gave him a heavy bundle. “If you could deliver these to ”/characters/oleg-tuskface" class=“wiki-content-link”>Oleg Tuskface, Oleg’s sure to reward you. In fact, here’s a dagger for your troubles." And the dwarf gave Varis a fine dagger, and promised 20 silver kroner to Varis for his troubles.
As Varis considered his options, an elven woman approached him. She made every effort to keep her face covered, but Varis determined she was a high-elf from Crioch Finis based on her bearing and accent. Her name was Baela of Couric, she explained. Her son was at Birness, Seamus of Couric, and she was anxious to see him. However, she was a druid, and feared for her safety should the church find her, as well as crossing the Moors alone. If Varis was going to Birness, could she accompany him? She could give him 15 kroner to the party for their efforts: and she and her son would owe them favours.
Thia, likewise was approached by a couple with twin young dwarves, barely walking, hoping to start a new life in the lands of Clan Buchan. More intriguingly, an older dwarf approached her. He introduced himself as the Magister Kenzie mac Rois, on his way to Dornach, and grateful for some company for himself and his guard to the Buchan lands anyway. He could offer 5 Alamannian Marks for the journey.
Monastic Shepherds seeking to move their flock to Birness for the coming fair approached Mikdale for assistance, and Thalin was approached by Sean mac Marr, a dwarven smith who was hoping there would be work for him with Clan Buchan. Finally, monks seeking to move a cargo of cloth to Birness approached Thalin, hoping to move their cargo in safety with the bridal escort.
The party met before sundown, and determined that they would honour all requests to travel with them: a large party would attract less hassle, and word of a bridal party might attract the attention of bandits. Varis the Sober neglected to mention the dagger he had been given as advance payment for the delivery to Oleg. The heroes determined that they would rather have a favour owed by a churchman than the love of a gnome, and determined that while Simon of Altburg would reach Birness Abbey, his ledger book would meet with some accident on the way.
They also discussed the various routes they could take across the Ythan Moors: they could either (a) head south to the Eastern Sea coast, and take a badly defined trail through the fens known as the “Mickle Tarty”; (b) cross midway along the river at the Ellon Ford, the most established route; or © cross to the north, in the headwaters of the Ythan across the Methlick Bridge. As it was spring, the heroes decided not to chance the runoff of the river, and to risk the blind corners of the Methlick bridge.
That night Clan Mar threw a feast for Eilleana. Mikdale and Thalin where seated at the head table. A roast oxen was piped in to great cheers, and Mikdale was offered the honour of taking the first cut with the Mormaer’s own dirk. As he wielded the blade, the Mormaer whispered “Simon told me who ye are: I wish you to know that any guest of the High King is most welcome in my lands!”
Mikdale was embarassed, and scared to have his identity revealed. But when Mikdale confronted the gnome, Simon of Altburg protested that he was asked a direct question by his host, and could not lie under such circumstances.
The dwarven feast continued, with much ale, and even fine Alamannian wine brought out. Everyone started the next morning hungover, with the exception of Thalin, and Varis the Sober.
The party observed that with so many accompanying them, they were more of a travelling circus than a small party, and no trouble presented themselves. However, past mid-day, Varis the Sober, came across some Dwarves wearing the grey and black of the Westerland clans. It was quickly determined they were bandits, and two were killed in swift scuffle. Thalin took it upon himself, as a Thane to dispense justice; the one who wept helplessly was dispatched, while the defiant bandit was given a chance to fight for his crimes and honour. He was quickly dispatched by a quick blow from Thalin.
On the second day of travels the party reached the Ythan river and the Methlick Bridge. It was an immense structure, from the days of the Odygian giants, spanning across a waterfall without an approach that did not involve blind corners.
The party asked those they were escorting to wait some distance down the road, and took it upon themselves, along with a wagon, to approach the bridge. Dain pushed the wagon, loaded with Thia and Thalin along the bridge, while Varis the Sober kept close watch behind. It was soon clear the bandits were waiting for them on both sides, some swarming behind them to attack Mikdale and Varis the Cleric, holding the rear, and others pouring in front of them, ready with bows.
Dain charged the wagon into the bulk of the bandits, using the size of the cart to push bandits off the cliff. With magic and arrows, Thalin, Thia and Varis killed others.
Meanwhile, Mikdale made use of his sleep spell and the guards with Varis lined up, forming a spear wall to guard the road. Combat continued, and a minute later, many bandits were slain, their leader escaped, but the party largely unscathed.
They crossed the Methlick bridge, and that night, the two Varis’ made off with Simon’s ledger book, destroying it, and serving the church’s mission.
The party expected to reach Birness Abbey the next day.