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DensleyBlair

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Two chapters are mostly finished. However, for two days now I have been vexed by Tickety Boo articles. My contribution this week may well end up being from the Most Illustrious Secret, the Great Bear Spy:

Grr.

Hopefully chapters this weekend.
This reminds me that I really need to get a Libertaire in for this turn…

Looking forward to the next chapters!
 
Chapter 4: The New Normal New

TheButterflyComposer

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Chapter 4: The New Normal


“Not bad. A little steadier, a little more strength.”

Beor nodded, fingers stinging. He breathed carefully, aligned his target, and released. The arrow hit the target with a thud.

“Good.” His brother smiled at him. “Very good, for your age.”

Beor frowned a little. He was happy to have hit the target, and for the arrow to have stuck. His last five attempts had missed or bounced weakly off the wood. “It’s quite hard, isn’t it?” he asked.

“Archery is an art, and not one for the weak. It takes strength to draw a bow, skill to aim, confidence to strike. Luck plays a roll too of course, but we are Lancasters. We make our own fortune, as much as we can.”

Boer nodded eagerly. “You said much the same about ruling, right?”

“In a sense. Your father does rule with strength, skill and confidence, though whilst archery might be considered a sport at time, ruling should never be thought of as such. Our lives, and the lives of all Lancaster lie upon his shoulders. Livelihoods as well. Competence and luck make an able monarch but knowledge is the key really. Your father rules wisely, and with great kindness as well as competence, and that is why he is beloved.”

“But how do you become wise?”

“With difficulty. But it can be learnt, and taught to a degree. Kindness is actually the harder challenge, or so I have found.” His brother turned his intense gaze upon him, and Beor was pinned to the spot, as he always was. “Power tempts you Beor, as soon as you grasp it, it grasps you. And yet, the greatest power a man might gain is that which is freely given to him out of love, and trust. Remember this Beor, and try again.”

“My fingers hurt.”

“Such is the way,” Elfwine opened his hand and demonstrated the notches worn into his fingers by constant practice. “Everything you do leaves a mark, one way or another. Remember that too.”

Beor nodded again, reluctantly placing another arrow. He loved practice really, as it was a chance for he and Elfwine to be together without his pain of a sister. Pain for being a year older, a bit taller and, Beor sometimes suspected, Elfwine’s favourite.


She got away with a lot more in his presence than anyone else, even that morning she had, before he managed to escape her clutches. Even the Great Bear spoke to her.

“What are you doing?” Wilfred asked, loudly bursting in on Elfwine as he was writing something at his desk.

Wilfred was second eldest, and constantly took charge whenever she could. Beor thus often found himself dragged along on whatever scheme she had in mind.

“We’re trying to remember the recipe for our favourite mead mix,” Elfwine said absently, scribbling away whilst Secret looked over his shoulder, nodding or shaking every so often.

“How could you forget something like that?”

“Er…honestly we were more consumers than producers in this regard,” Elfwine replied, looking up. Secret snorted. “Yes, I know you were the best drinker in the kingdom, hush.”

Wilfred giggled in that annoying way of hers. “It’s silly that you talk to him so much.”

“Well, it would be rude to ignore him. And ignoring him in no way shuts him up,” Elfwine said with a grin. Secret snorted again, butting his head atop Elfwine’s.

“You must teach me how then,” she said, raising her chin. Elfwine looked at her and laughed. She frowned fiercely at him for that but he waved her off.

“No, I know you’re in earnest. It’s just, I actually don’t know how to explain it. He just…speaks.” He looked at Secret, who gave a bear shrug. It was much like a human shrug, except not.

“Father wouldn’t like us drinking.”

Elfwine shot a look at her. “We are not drinking. We are planning where the tavern is going to be and someone got distracted thinking about strong booze.”

Secret blinked and sent a sorrowful look at Wilfred, who sighed in sympathy.

“Hmph, you’re a natural,” Elfwine muttered. “Or,” he said, getting back to work, “He’s getting better at manipulation.”

Beor, quiet up to that point, suddenly burst. “Why is he called Secret?”

“It’s a secret.”

“Why?”

“Because Father said so.”

“Why should we listen to him?”

“Because he is the Lord of Lancaster. You have to obey the lord.”

“Why?”

“Because so long as Mankind requires society, there need be rule of law.”

“Why?”

“Because Natural Law does not suit our purposes. We have stared into the abyss and found it wanting.”

“…what?”

Elfwine cracked a grin. “A jest. Honestly? People have needs and wants. They need to live; they want to do so as comfortably as possible. Thus, society. Many working as one can do more of anything. Keeping them as one, however, is a constant struggle. So, we make rules and we keep them. That is a gross simplification but you need not concern yourself with much more than that.”

“Why?”

Elfwine sighed. His brother always seemed rather tired. “Because this is the way things are. For whatever reason, people hate changing what they are doing, unless they are completely miserable…and sometimes not even then. You need to come up with good reasons for changing something, not carrying on. Carrying on is easily argued for.”

“So…so, you’re saying that Father doesn’t really need to tell us why we have to obey, but we need to give him a good reason to tell us?”

“Er…” Elfwine thought for a moment. “I suppose you could say that. Of course, when you are older and…wiser,” he chuckled, “that will hold less of an effect on you.”

“But El, you are older and wiser, right?”

“Right.”

“So why do you listen to Father?”

“Because he is a good man, a wise ruler and…he knows better than me.”

“Even now you’re twelve?” Beor was incredulous.

“Yes, even now.” Elfwine chuckled to himself over some private jest.

“Urgh, you two follow Father around like ducklings!” Wilfred said, jumping off from where she sat on the table’s edge. “I’m going to do something fun, away from you.”

She went off, leaving Beor shyly looking at the ground whilst his brother worked quietly at the table.

“Elfwine?”

“Hm?”

“Could you teach me swordplay?”

“Not yet, your body is too small and weak to handle drill.” Elfwine looked up. Perhaps he realised how harsh that sounded. “You may ride with Secret and I later though, if you promise to be careful.”

“I suppose I’m too little for horses too,” Beor muttered.

Elfwine smiled and patted his shoulder. “Just so. But I’m hardly tall yet. We shall both be giants before long, you’ll see.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

“Ok then. Show me that bow again?”

And so it went. And really, Beor thought as his next arrow shot through the air and hit the target dully, things were pretty good as they were now. Wilfred being the most aggravating thing in his life was actually not so bad. He certainly never wanted to be as burdened as Father was, or even Elfwine.


Amaudru smiled as Maud finally settled off to sleep. Twins truly were exhausting. Oh, children were exhausting, everyone had told her that. Twins doubly so. But Lancaster babes were a force of nature unto themselves. Two of them…well, they were sleeping now at least.


It was a blessing really, to have such strong and clever children. But at the same time, in seemed a judgement on her. The twins were safe now, but in a few months, they would be walking and talking as much as the rest of her brood. At least for the last two years, Elfwine had taken upon himself to partially control the excesses of Wilfred and answer Beor’s questions. Now however, her eldest son was hurting in a way she didn’t understand and apparently couldn’t heal. He had never treated the family like lepers before, unlike her own childhood where the older boys often did straight up abandon the youngsters whenever they felt like it. Her father raised hell and fury whenever he caught them doing it of course, but Wigberht was a gentler sort, and she agreed with him for the most part. Elfwine was troubled, that much was clear, but he was also exploring the city and the reigns of power in a way he never had before. In some regard, they had to let him find himself in his tasks, for one day he would have to be comfortable in the role of leader. However, she thought firmly, he was also a child still, and required guidance of all kinds before he was ready.

Her husband had spoken to him a few days ago, and apparently, he had spoken back in full. Subsequently Elfwine was more present, at least with his siblings. And she was relieved it was so. Then again, it was clear, no matter how much Wigberht hid it, that the lord was shaken by what had been discussed. He had buried himself in parchment and books, sending off many letters and spoke extensively with the local priests, monks and abbot. She had also caught him meditating far more often, with a troubled look on his face and an unfamiliar grimace upon his lips.

It seemed Elfwine’s troubles had not been dealt with, but merely passed on.

Wigberht made his way through to her chambers whilst she was still lost in thought. He seemed tired.

“Are you alright?”

“I’ll live,” he said. He laid his papers down and collapsed into a seat.


“I have been in talks with Selyf.”

“Ah, and how is he?”

“Worse.” Wigberht sighed. The old man’s mind came and went with further regularity these past few weeks. It was a sorry sight for such a friend and man as the Bishop.

“Did you speak much?”

“Of sorts. He was the only man who could have helped. Elfwine I mean.”

Amaudru stiffened. “I don’t understand.”

Wigberht looked solemn. “Come sit with me, my love. I shall tell you all I know and all that I can guess. To begin,” he said, pouring wine for the two of them, “Elfwine came to me late one night a few days ago…”

And so, husband and wife discussed how their eldest child was effectively dead. He had been replaced by phantoms of madness, or some even darker power that had seen fit to tear an elderly and psychotic tyrant from his deathbed into their boy. In the end, the effect was the same, Elfwine believed in the experience enough, and clearly had been changed enough to grant knowledge and experience beyond his years.

“I-I can’t believe this,” she cried. Not yet. Perhaps never. The innocence of youth had burnt out of Elfwine’s eyes, replaced by a fierce and utterly alien fire that scared her. Now she knew why that was. “What…how can we go on?”

“We must,” Wigberht said firmly. “We must,” he repeated, quietly. “I can think of no reason for this to befall him, and us all, save for a great purpose. There can be none greater than snatching a soul fresh from the hellfires themselves.”

Amaudru murmured indistinctly. Her husband was often right on such matters, but she could not help but feel that God would not have plucked a demon-spawn into the heir of Lancaster indiscriminately. If her son, or what was left of him, was speaking the truth, in everything, a reformed monster would take the throne of Lancaster. One did not do that unless whatever was coming was far worse than the cure that was…Elfwine.

And what did she think of all this? She could see in him something of her son. Aspects remained, forgotten or perhaps submerged beneath a surface of age-strengthened wit and sharpness. In some ways he seemed very much a twelve-year-old boy crying out for his mother over many hurts. Amaudru wondered whether that was heartening or disturbing.

“I told him, come what may, that love would see us through this ordeal together,” Wigberht said, having finished explaining all, and what he and the mad bishop theorised. “I hope it was the right thing to say.”

She sighed. “It was,” she decided. “I will always fight for my children. Elfwine is…he needs us, whatever he is.” Her heart broke all over again as she both thought and spoke, “He didn’t mention me, did he? I wasn’t his mother, in his tale.”

Wigberht was quiet. “No, I don’t think so.”

“That doesn’t matter either.”

It did. Oh, her chest ached with it. But to save him, she would tear out her heart. Unfortunate, she reflected, that it may well come to that.
 
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HistoryDude

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It seems as if Elfwine knows some philosophy.

Also, poor Amaudru...

P.S. For the record, in your signature, it says that this is a CK3 AAR. Might want to fix that, especially given that CK3 comes out in September.
 

El Pip

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Clearly Elfwine's story sent Bishop Selyf mad, or perhaps he was one of the few who realised how weird the talking bears were?

Wigberht is also taking an amazingly relaxed approach to the Sanctity of Confession, but perhaps it was a bit more lax back then before the Ecumenical Councils really started laying down the (canon) law.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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It seems as if Elfwine knows some philosophy.

Also, poor Amaudru...

P.S. For the record, in your signature, it says that this is a CK3 AAR. Might want to fix that, especially given that CK3 comes out in September.
Huh, so it does. Thanks.
He's picked up a little. Mostly about fighting (who'd have thunk it?).

She was given a pretty raw deal. And due to the nature of ckii, probably won't get much more page time than this unless something interesting happens later on.

Clearly Elfwine's story sent Bishop Selyf mad, or perhaps he was one of the few who realised how weird the talking bears were?

Wigberht is also taking an amazingly relaxed approach to the Sanctity of Confession, but perhaps it was a bit more lax back then before the Ecumenical Councils really started laying down the (canon) law.
The game for theological characters has them set to speak to church officials every so often for flavor. But this is random, and doesn't really account for the character sheets themselves. Thus you may end up having a deep debate with a decadent priest who defiled his children or, as in this case, speak with apparent lunatic possessed people. I assumed he was being told the plot of this AAR and ran with it...

Believe it or not, it took a long time for anyone to figure out that A) priests were going to have to listen to people confess their sins and B) this might mean hearing some effed up shit, which meant C) perhaps it should be done in private and kept secret.

Given that the 'Christian' ruler of mercia at this time OTL was sent several letters by the archbishop of Germany (!) reminding him that he was in fact not allowed to have multiple wives and sex random people in front of them, I will come down on the side of Wigberht being a fairly good latin Christian, who is flexible when he needs to be. Recall his previous incarnation was a sex-crazed maniac and the pope an easily corruptible alcoholic who died in a drinking contest with a bear...

Seriously though, OTL Anglo saxon christianity was a lot more fast and loose and basically pagan than you might think, especially compared to charlamagnes empire over the Channel.
 

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Well, that is one dangerous, yet if kept loyal, useful wife.

Edit: dammit cell phone made it seem like I was on the last page. And then I was three pages from the current page. :p
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Well, that is one dangerous, yet if kept loyal, useful wife.

Edit: dammit cell phone made it seem like I was on the last page. And then I was three pages from the current page. :p
Oh, you have an ordeal to go through yet then...

Yes, I quite liked the second wife of Elfwine. She was incredibly competent at ruling, gave him a load of kids and had a lot of land claims to her name. Dead useful character.
 

Bullfilter

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Power tempts you Beor, as soon as you grasp it, it grasps you. And yet, the greatest power a man might gain is that which is freely given to him out of love, and trust.
He would know this from personal experience. I rather like this Elfwine, certainly more than the previous incarnation. Whether he will be more ‘fun’ or successful of course remains to be seen.
And so, husband and wife discussed how their eldest child was effectively dead. He had been replaced by phantoms of madness, or some even darker power that had seen fit to tear an elderly and psychotic tyrant from his deathbed into their boy.
This is about the best they can do at trying to rationalise the irrational. I wish them luck: as the saying goes, they’ll need it.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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He would know this from personal experience. I rather like this Elfwine, certainly more than the previous incarnation. Whether he will be more ‘fun’ or successful of course remains to be seen.
That depends on what is decided, in terms of success. I think he turns out more fun though, given that he won't be solving every problem through murder. Indeed, as next chapter says more openly, and hinted at here, presently he isn't even sure if he wants to be king of Lancaster again, or train someone else to do it.
 
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He looked at Secret, who gave a bear shrug.
Is a bear shrug like a bear hug? :p

Going to echo the general mood and say that I'm enjoying this 'new' incarnation of Elfwine. His preternatural wisdom certainly comes through, which gives him this eerie transcendental quality. And the relationship with Secret is very touching somehow.

Ominous hints about what possible future exactly may have necessitated Elfwine's revival for its aversion. I hadn't considered it that way. Even if that's just one of Amaudru's passing thoughts and doesn't get picked up again, it's an interesting one.
 

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Is a bear shrug like a bear hug? :p
Less fatal.

Going to echo the general mood and say that I'm enjoying this 'new' incarnation of Elfwine. His preternatural wisdom certainly comes through, which gives him this eerie transcendental quality. And the relationship with Secret is very touching somehow.
An unearthly child vibe is always good. And it means more Secret can be used more often outside of comic relief. Relieved that it is taken as such however. I'll probably change the title crawl to reflect the story, probably something like the prologue begins here at chapter 1, the story begins 24 chapters later here at chapter 1. You need not read the former to understand the latter, but it might help. The current vote, if there is one, is located here. Or something like that. You don't really need to read the first universe of lancaster now to get the story, its more for meta information or for bile fascination of AAR problems.

Ominous hints about what possible future exactly may have necessitated Elfwine's revival for its aversion. I hadn't considered it that way. Even if that's just one of Amaudru's passing thoughts and doesn't get picked up again, it's an interesting one.
There are various ideas about it but I had to at least put it in. So often you see reset or reboot type events, involving random universal forces or specific divine intervention but no reason is given for why it happened. Even if time travel or dimension hopping is simply enough for the powers that be, they probably wouldn't do it randomly. And since elfwine wasn't simply plucked back in time but onto an alternate earth, what could it be about this world that made it play host to him?

Thus, somehow something put him there, presumably for a reason beyond amusement. That is her fear, for what horror could it be that requires this Elfwine to counter it?
 
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Chapter 5: Life and Death go on New

TheButterflyComposer

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Chapter 5: Life and Death go on

Wilfred and Beor were fighting in the yard again. Fortunately for everyone, they were allowed to. Elfwine watched as his siblings methodically circled each other and brawled. They would then switch to grappling with daggers before duelling with swords. Throughout the process, they were not allowed to stop, nor speak. Inciting a foe into committing a fatal mistake through a few clever jests were legendary in song and poem, but on the battlefield, one was lucky if one heard anything except screaming. Especially a Lancaster battlefield, given the presence of war-bears.

Beor was taller than his sister now, and had the advantage in strength also. This had not aided his speed or reflexes however, and so he was, like many of his age, all over the place. Wilfred meanwhile was swift and accurate in her punches, her skill with the short and long dagger sure to defend her for many years to come. This was quite necessary, because out of all Wigberht’s children, she was to be the one to leave Lancaster for marriage, and to the byzantine court of the Romans no less! Elfwine’s own court dripped a constant stream of bloody tales but Constantinople breathed chaos.


He had been most put out when told what was happening to his sister, but his father had, eventually, explained that this was an amazing match. And in truth, it was, if the husband to be lived long enough to matter. Christophorous was heir to the Imperial Throne, brother to two emperors and a Grand Duke. He kept the strange beliefs of his family of course but still, such a match was such that Elfwine would have struggled to make at the start of his own reign. His own bride to be was nothing to scoff at either.


Princess Ida of Francia, the young, beautiful and clever daughter of Karloman, or as many were calling him, Karl the Great. He had finally decidedly trounced his brother, also called Karl, in Francia and ruled a great empire of his own. West-Francia was now split in twain, with Ida’s parents ruling from the Channel to the Mediterranean. Elfwine could hardly believe he was to become grandson to the Karling brothers, after all this time. It sounded ridiculous, even to him.


Another strange event was the usurpation of Mercia by Aefflaed. Elfwine wryly remembered she being the one who began the rebellion that led Lancaster taking most of the kingdom for themselves. Now it seemed, she had gotten her wish to rule an intact Mercia all of her own.

Somehow during his musings, Beor had disarmed Wilfred and was pounding her into the dirt. Elfwine sighed and signalled the fight to end. The two remained work-in-progress, but by anyone else’s standards they were fairly handy by this point. A commotion drifted along the breeze, causing the three Lancasters to turn expectantly towards the main street. As might be expected by such noise, it was the wizard Rambunctious, though strangely enough accompanied by a rathe excited Secret.

“Congratulate me, why don’t you,” the wizard said, coming to a stop before them. “My genius TRULY knows NO BOUNDS!”

“No doubt,” Elfwine said, glancing at Secret for a clue. The bear was fixated on a small vial being waved around Rambunctious’ head.

“What have you done now, devil worshipper?” Wigberht approached the group wearily. Elfwine shrugged at him. Rambunctious didn’t appear to have exploded a house. Or turned a bear pink. Or re-animated all the chicken at dinner, causing them to run at the wizard madly. He still feared the sound of clucking.

“I have transcended mortality. I have pulled aside the veil and touched the face of GAWD HIMSELF!”

That, surprisingly, did not narrow it down very much. What-

“Wait, is that…?” Elfwine gestured to the little bottle, eyes widening. Secret hummed excitedly.

“Indeed, it is so, noble Lord,” the wizard said proudly. “This…miracle given form, this elixir of ultimates, this succour of Heaven, this balm of EDEN-”

“Get to the point,” Wigberht cut in, eyes narrowing.

“This,” Rambunctious finished, holding the little vial in front of himself lovingly, “is BEAR JUICE!”

The courtyard was silent.

Secret stared at the vial, as did Elfwine, in disbelief. In excitement. In rapture.

“It is…bear juice?” Wigberht said.

“Bear juice,” Elfwine said, taking the vial carefully. “My word…” How long had they tried for it? How many hours burnt in hot pursuit of this little thing? Secret was quivering now, and suddenly lunged forward and snatched the bottle neatly out of his hand. Elfwine seized his siblings by their shirts and pulled them back several feet, and then firmly behind himself.

Wigberht cautiously turned to him, “Elfwine, what-?”

Secret damn-near exploded in a shock of fur and fang, as the gigantic bear leaped into the air and down again. His fur gleamed with unholy fires, his eyes glowed, his mouth burst open in flames. He was already strong yet now he possessed the strength of the earth itself, crushing and shattering it underpaw. Rambunctious leapt up from where he had been flung by the enhanced bear and began cackling madly.

“That,” Elfwine pointed, “is Bear Juice. Highly toxic to anything smaller than the larger of our bears. Highly noxious, quite volatile, suspected to be combustible. It also makes bears…better. It is the insight, the…concept of Bear, given liquid form. I spent decades trying to get a drop of the stuff. I never believed I’d ever…” Elfwine’s face paled considerably, before heating up rather red.

“My son?” Wigberht asked, placing a hand on his shoulder.

“I…may have offered something to whomever could make the Bear Juice.”

“Ah,” Wigberht frowned. The Lancaster of Elfwine’s days was a rich and powerful land. They could surely promise much more than he himself could deliver. Still, an oath is an oath. “What is it you promised, my son?”

Elfwine looked away from his father, and very quietly said, “Yorkshire.”

As Rambunctious and the half-crazed Secret cavorted through the town, Wigberht sat down heavily on a bench, his son quickly joining him. “This could be a problem.”


“Let the feast, begin.”

Wigberht’s calm invitation was accepted readily by the hungry revellers. All week the festival had turned the city upside down. The churches were filled and emptied several times a day, the marketplaces overflowed with wine and occasionally even food. The Harvest was complete, and a very good year it had been too. The weather had turned in the last few hours, and the Heavens opened upon the great hall, cold rain battering away at the steady wood and stone. Roaring fires and happy people warmed the insides however, and everyone seemed happy this eve. Elfwine was, as ever, sat with a gathering of the children, all of them it seemed, and telling them stories of the night and of the seasons to come. And how the trees could be used to tell the severity of the winter storm, and how the animals fed and slept comfortably on a night like this.

“Then, with a sweep of Pegasus’ wings, Perseus flew to safety, the princess in his arms.” A round of cheering erupted from the table, and some children begged for more whilst others took their fill of food. Elfwine made sure they all did so before continuing. There were children here, despite his family’s alms, that would not eat so well again for some time.

Things were going well, Wigberht thought. He had even stood to allow the wizard in his hall, after he promised to leave his staff at home. Rambunctious was, as he had been for weeks, surrounded by bears, and idiots trying to convince him to let them prove their masculinity by drinking of the Juice. Wigberht shook his head in amusement. These were the people he fed, protected and enriched. He would have it no other way.

The yells from outside the door, the appearance of two guardsmen and a sopping wet man between them, all timed to the thunder, rather put a damper on the evening. All eyes were on the trio as they argued and jostled each other. The stranger was wild-eyed and struggling to get through. “My Lord Wigberht,” he screamed, “Please in the name of God!”

“Let him pass,” the Lord of Lancaster said. He could never refuse such pleas. He had barely batted an eye before the man was streaking down the hall and would have surely been upon him had not Elfwine intercepted him. His son gently lowed the heavily breathing man to the ground before quietly speaking to the guards that had run up from the door. They nodded and ran back out the hall. Wigberht made his way down, sending reassurances and kind looks to those he passed in his wake. Secret, another bear…Sunny, he believed, and Rambunctious joined his son.

“Elfwine, are you alright?”

“I’m fine. This, however,” he gestured to several leaking wounds on the man’s torso that had a peculiar yellow pus lining them, “this is sorcery. Or very powerful Faith induction.” He took from his pocket a crucifix of clever and silver make. The reaction was immediate from the stranger; he stilled in his ramblings, and then shrank back in horror from the cross. It was then that the sinister nature of the situation hit Wigberht.

“Can he be helped?”

“I will try. The horror within him is not of his own making.”

“Will he die?

“I will not let him.”

The pair lapsed into silence as Elfwine grabbed a goblet of wine from a table and poured it slowly over the largest of the scratches. Scratches? Yes, very clearly, they were from some beast or animal. Wigberht found himself compelled to pray quietly over the man’s body, which Elfwine seemed to approve of.

“Hold him,” he said, and the bears softly placed a paw each atop the man. “This will be extremely painful, cover your ears.” With that, the crucifix was brought down upon the wound, and the man screeched a most unnatural concoction of sound, hardly man and yet quite clearly so. Wigberht doubled his efforts, his concentration momentarily stymied by the noise. Suddenly the cross retracted, and the wound looked shockingly burnt, the silver somehow having left the artifice behind and entered the man’s body. It was a hellish sight.

“Good,” Elfwine said.

“Good? By Almighty God-”

“Had the impression of the cross remained on his body outside the wound, he would be lost to us. Better to cut his throat at that point and take his chances in the next life.” His son sped up his ministrations now he knew the man still clung to…whatever it was he was in danger of losing. For several long minutes, the hall was practically silent save for the occasional wail of babes and the murmuring of the man. Many onlookers were crossing themselves and their children repeatedly. Wigberht could hardly blame them.

A sharp breath released from his son caught his attention. Looking up for the first time, Elfwine glanced at him before saying, “He is safe.”

The gathering let out a collective breath.

“Put him up in St. Peter’s. Assign a guard. And a priest,” Wigberht ordered to his men. “Now then, where did he come from?”

“He wore the remains of a habit, so an outlying monastery perhaps? St. Benedict’s is the closest. I’m more concerned about what he left behind, that was no ordinary monster that made those cuts.”

“A summoning?”

“Possibly. There was certainly some curse behind his actions, but he must have decided to come here himself.”

“We must help then!”

Elfwine hummed, and cleaned his hands. “We’d need some protections. Gambeson won’t save you from this. In my…previous encounters,” he said quietly, looking around, “I had leather and hide made ready for such things. Perhaps a tanner or blacksmith might have protections thick enough for our quarry?”

“And what is it we hunt?” Wigberht asked, having nodded the order away onto other guards.

“The living dead. The question is, who awakened them, and why?”
 
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Ay caramba. As if things weren't frantic enough in Lancashire, we've got zombies to commend with (and not the ursine kind). Is this some portent of the living hell that awaits Elfwine's intervention?
 

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Ay caramba. As if things weren't frantic enough in Lancashire, we've got zombies to commend with (and not the ursine kind). Is this some portent of the living hell that awaits Elfwine's intervention?
This next bit is based on a genuine medevial horror story. Very difficult to find online though, which means I may not be able to show you all pictures unless I scan some books. The imagery and ideas in it however, are amazing.

I suppose it is something of a portend for things to come. The medieval world had a lot of stories about the supernatural, but this world actually has the stuff that people in otl 'defiently saw some other guy see I think once'. Cosmic horror is all well and good, but for these people there really are actual monsters in the wood, as well as the normal dangerous beasts. So there are some reasons why even though CKII is full of imbecilles and complete psychos, people generally want to stay in civilisation and under a lord's protection.

Now some of these creatures are really stupid, like the one legged giants and the backward men, but there are some like dire wolves, nightmares, werewolves, vampires (by which they mean usually a form of modern zombie), dragons of all kinds, monkey women's who feast on children etc etc. The best part is, they change a lot depending on where in the world you are, so Lancaster is going to have to contually fight, defeat and then readjust to different enemies. I would certainly love, depending on where the wittenmagot vote to go, to fight eastern Europe's more awful monsters like Baba Yaga and the Dragon tyrants.
 

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Bear juice and zombies?

Also, good marriages (and presumably alliances), although marrying Karlings didn't work so well last time around, if I'm remembering correctly.
 

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Bear juice and zombies?
Not the strangest thing to come out of Lancaster.

Also, good marriages (and presumably alliances), although marrying Karlings didn't work so well last time around, if I'm remembering correctly.
Lancaster avoids alliances so far becasue it doesn't need them. The karlings have been trying to get every ally they can because of the constant warring between the two brothers, and we got very lucky with plague regarding the byzantines. And yes, Elfwine had to deal with some utter messes from past marital ties regarding both francia and Rome. Hopefully to be avoided this time although I don't hold out much hope for francia. In the first game it utterly collapsed and was taken over by the Umayyad, in the second Elfwine only managed to get Bavaria as a Lancaster onarchy in Europe, and this new game has the realm split already in infighting between the two brothers rather than one forging an empire. Even if francia does manage to unify, I would probably advise the future wittenmagot that they are probably doomed to die spectacularly one way or another.
 

Bullfilter

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His own bride to be was nothing to scoff at either.
Indeed not! Hope she lives up to her childhood promise.
He still feared the sound of clucking.
Nobody calls him chicken! Oh, wait :p
“And what is it we hunt?” Wigberht asked, having nodded the order away onto other guards.

“The living dead. The question is, who awakened them, and why?”
Hmm, lycanthropes or some such. Nasty. Best have some bear juice at the ready! :D
 

El Pip

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It does make a certain amount of sense that a world of wizards and talking bears would have the darker side as well. Sense is probably the wrong word, internal consistency maybe.

What does not make sense is how similar (as in identical) Princess Ida looks to Wilfred. When the Ida screenshot came up I subconsciously made the connection and assumed some sort of weird 'purity of the blood' incest thing had been arranged, which would not be the weirdest thing happening in Lancaster right now so seemed semi-plausible. It took a re-read to sort out what was actually going on.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Indeed not! Hope she lives up to her childhood promise.
I have no idea. So long as she isn't barren, or gay, it shouldn't matter much gameplay wise but would be nice to have a genuinely nice human being in Lancaster.

Nobody calls him chicken! Oh, wait :p
This will probably be incredibly important later on. Although probably not...

Hmm, lycanthropes or some such. Nasty. Best have some bear juice at the ready! :D
Bear juice solves everything! How do they feed them? Bear juice! Where does the poo go? Bear juice! How are they so clever? Bear juice! How are they carrying x amount of weight? Bear juice!

Bear juice pretty much makes bears, and only bears, narrative convience shields. I'll probbaly even have a crack at explaining some of the above anyway (the poo would be incredibly useful to Lancaster, so they harvest it with cunning setups of pipes and drainage in the Pit etc) but this just very liberally wallpapers over the bears so we can safely say they will never be a problem.

It does make a certain amount of sense that a world of wizards and talking bears would have the darker side as well. Sense is probably the wrong word, internal constinecy maybe.
One of the big differences between the modern and premodern world is the willingness to kill curiosity with a story rather than investigation. It's magic, I don't have to explain it, really just kills any and all understanding you might get, but at the same time they didn't really view or want magic to be a good explication of the world, just an answer they could use. You get good a time a spell or make an offering to a witch and your sheep farm will prosper. How? Magic. Why? Why are you asking? The dead rising from the grave was on of the most accepted things of the supernatural, because not only did Catholicism have a zombie as their saviour but purgatory, a fairly nebulous concept until the later middle ages, pretty much had everyone stranded between life and the afterlife for a given amount of time. It's only after protestants decided purgatory wasn't a thing, that 'dark magic' was a thing and was bad, and that the dead shouldn't rise unless Jesus tells them to that the undead started to be very slowly consigned to fiction rather than credible sources quoted in university lectures.

Thus far, we have not left behind medieval stories, folklore and legends regarding talking bears, magical wizards making magical things and the living dead attacking people. The fun thing about Lancaster is that quite a few strange things there would pass without much comment, whilst some other things Elfwine will do (tax codes he's worked on for a century and a more advanced version of the city watch) will be queried at length.

The specific tale that the next chapter is based on throws even modern ideas about 'darker sides' around a bit because of who did the summoning and why.

What does not make sense is how similar (as in identical) Princess Ida looks to Wilfred.
Well, those are paintings, in an art style that won't be developed for another five centuries at least. Presumably some hack was paid to draw out the family tree and decided to make all the children identical cherubs. Baldrick has a speech about it in the third series. All we can say I say at the moment, they are both small and blonde-ish.

When the Ida screenshot came up I subconsciously made the connection and assumed some sort of weird 'purity of the blood' incest thing had been arranged, which would not be the weirdest thing happening in Lancaster right now so seemed semi-plausible. It took a re-read to sort out what was actually going on.
I'm no jabberjock. I did the incest test in the first Lancaster game (before Elfwine first one) because I wanted to see how elected monarchy would work as a system if only my family held land in the empire. Breeding with each other boosted numbers and actually worked pretty well at mainting genius and strong traits, as well as the all important saints bloodlines. Matrilineal marriages where necessary so no girl was breeding anything but Lancaster babies.

So, it hasn't happened yet but we know it can work. And the culture at the time, much like today, was perfectly alright with lots and lots of sex between people, including cousins. I suppose it depends on how many children Lancaster can have in the next few years. And from an in game perspective, Elfwines mother in this universe is a karling princess herself (of Charles line) so of course her children look similar to her uncle's brood. But yeah, kids in CKII look mostly identical unless they are of a different culture, gov type etc.
 
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Chapter 6: The Curse of Agnes Moor New

TheButterflyComposer

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Chapter 6: The Curse of Agnes Moor


The villagers of Agnes Moor were starving. The crop had failed three summers ago, and now had failed again. By the time of what should have been Harvest, the barns were emptied of stock and the animals were weak with hunger, much like their masters. The milk was running dry and the surrounding woodlands had been stripped of victual in an effort to keep the children alive. It soon came to pass that this too was failing, and there was not the skill within the place to hunt for everybody.

The local monastery, upon hearing the cries of the downtrodden, opened their stocks to the people as much as they could allow. Still, it was a good day’s walk from one to the other, and the monks had themselves to feed. The Abbot, a man of great piety, forswore all food for himself in order to sustain the parish, but it was not enough. The local lord was Northumbrian, and thus away at war against the Picts. Both the Abbot and the people had heard of the Promise of Lancaster, yet hardly expected the lord there to travel many miles out of his country to spare them food. By September-time, the people were quite desperate.

By October, some men of the village were willing to do anything to feed their families.

It was said that the coming of Christ to these shores saved it from damnation. That might well be the case. Who can say? But religion was never simply a protection against what awaited a soul in the next life, but a shield against the dangers of the present. So it was that in ancient times, and even in their grandfather’s days, the men of Agnes Moor would have been realities of the world that they must abide by if they wished to live within it. They would have been warned, repeatedly, by the wise and the old, to never attempt what they were about to do. To never carry it out on consecrated ground. And certainly not this time of the year, when the veil between the worlds was thinnest.

But the men were hungry, and they were desperate. And they were ignorant. And so, they went to St. Agnes graveyard, and despoiled the remains for trade goods.

They made off with the loot, leaving the site defiled and open. They were weak with hunger, and anxious to make back with their new hope to town. But in so doing, they made it obvious what they had done. The Abbot, upon hearing what the people he had risked the ruin of the monastery for had done, broke. The good and righteous man burnt with an anger he had never before or since felt, and swore greatly and loudly a damning oath, cursing the whole town and everyone within for their crimes. Upon so doing, he collapsed in a daze and was rushed off to bed by the good brothers of the Church.

That night, a fog descended upon the gravesite, blanketing the bodies, the markers and the ground itself in a coat of white. The monks slept soundly within their cots as the dead began to awaken from their disturbed rest. Fingers tightened by rot and dry burst open and closed. Empty sockets found their way to the entrance of the yard. Shambling, broken and glowing with the luminosity of fog, limbs long dead moved down the road towards Agnes Moor. They moved with the slowness of ages, yet steadily like the tides.


The villagers had gone looking for death and so were sure to find it.


“No.”

“But why, brother!” Beor whined.

“No.”

“Elfwine!”

He turned from packing supplies onto Secret’s back. “Beor, you are not ready. I am taking Secret and Rambunctious. Father is coming because I may require a man of strong faith with a stronger stomach. There is no room for more, especially not a child.”

This was very much the wrong thing to say. Beor swelled with fury hitherto unknown. “Elfwine-!”

“Beor, you will do as I say.”

“You are not my father!”

“But I am, son.” Wigberht said, coming up behind the pair. “A scratch from these fiends is death. Elfwine goes because he is our guide in this matter. I go because I am Lord of Lancaster, and would never allow such a dangerous quest without my involvement. If there is devilry afoot, we need our own wizard to counter its powers. And Secret is the fastest steed on the island.” He put a hand on Beor’s shoulder and shook him gently. “I will not risk more than I must, my son. Go to your sisters and protect them as you will. Your time to do battle and defend your family will come. Do not be so eager to embrace it before you are ready.”

Beor sniffed and nodded, averting his gaze from his family. He retreated off into the dark, towards the hall.

“He will be alright, Elfwine,” Wigberht said calmly, “and he was correct in one matter. You are equals in my house. No more, no less.”

Elfwine blinked and awoke from the petrification his brother’s words had cast. “Knowing and accepting are different. I have been a father to many, brother to none. He is so young…”

“So are you, in his eyes.” Wigberht chuckled. “In mine too, sometimes. Is everything ready?”

“Yes. We ride for St. Agnes.”

“Not St. Peter’s?”

“The man was bloodied underfoot, soaked to the skin and exhausted by infection and travel. St. Peter’s is only a few miles away and he was hastened by fear and curses. Any farther than St. Agnes and he would be a corpse already, any nearer and we would have seen him hours ago.”

“Very good then, let us be off. This business worries me greatly.”

“And I. This never happened before?”

“Not to my knowledge. Never in the North. Did you ever-?”

The question hung for a moment as the pair mounted Secret and Rambunctious joined them with a huff.

“No, not this close to Lancaster. A small island off the coast of Pictland became similarly cursed but the dead could hardly cross the sea. Only when some fishermen failed to return one night did the locals discover the horror. In that case the solution was fairly simple. Everyone on the isle was dead so we put it to the torch.”

“And here?”

“Depends on the curse. If the dead rose by their own design then there is little you can do to put them back in the ground save smashing them into smaller pieces. If Man’s touch did this, we are in firmer territory.”

Wigberht thought a little as the night air rushed around them at great speed. The rain had dried up to a light speckling on their cloaks, but the wind was picking up. The howls did little for a man’s peace of mind, especially on a night such as this.

“What of their spirits? I will not damn the fallen for a mortal man’s games.”

“Again, depends why they are awakened. If the dead walk themselves, their spirits are present. If forced to animate, some other force might use their bodies like puppets.”

“It is a grisly thing.”

“It is. Remember, do not let them touch you. If they break the skin, you may well die.”

The ride was quiet after that, save for the weather around them continuing to voice the heavens disproval of mankind’s failings.

Rambunctious suddenly cackled. The two fellow riders looked back at him incredulously.

“It is merely a jest,” he said, “but I am reminded of the old tale of three riders.”

Wigberht remained confused but Elfwine sighed. “Really, now?”


“It seemed thematically appropriate,” Rambunctious snapped. “One day, three riders met three others along the road. And these three were dead.”

Wigberht shuddered.

“The corpses supposedly castigated the three young men for wasting their youth and lives in pursuits that would not bring them happiness,” Elfwine continued. “Each man became more and more aware he spoke to the very corpse he would one day become.”

“Then what happened?” Wigberht asked, after a pause.

“It changes with every telling. I suppose it depends what kind of lesson the old and wise are trying to deliver,” Rambunctious answered. “What would you do?”

Secret continued to carry them along the track, and after some time they came across a hamlet, dark and quiet. The moon made out that it was quite late into the night-time, yet to hear no signs of life from a settlement, no animal or babe crying in the dark, this was uncanny. A great fog had descended upon the houses, and the streets were blanketed by it. Were it not for the church, the place would be difficult to place.

“We go forward now, into mystery.” Rambunctious said quietly. The four nodded, and began their descent into whatever horror awaited them.

 
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