Ernat, Jurisco, Albergio, Dide, Eduare and Gari headed away from the siege lines around Breda at dawn. Heading East, they cut through the trench works, stepping over, through and around the corpses and filth. By nine they were clear, and the countryside opened up to them like a festering sore. All of the structures within sight were smouldering ruins. Fields were burnt bare and untended. Broken wagons and bodies choked the ditches. A patrol stopped them at some point but they gave the daily password and were allowed to proceed. The sky was a consistent oppressive grey that threatened rain.
As the day wore on they saw increasingly fewer other travellers and none worth molesting. Hunger gnawed at them as Albergio rationed out wood-hard chucks of bread and slivers of fat bacon. Dide declared that he was considering cooking and eating the next woman he found after having finished the other business with her. They broke into squabbling about which was worse: the first or the second of those propositions, or the two combined. Dide tormented them for a couple of hours about how he had heard that human flesh tasted like pork, and then proceeded to describe recipes for suckling pig.
During the mid afternoon on a long deserted stretch of road they came to a turnoff that headed to the North East while the main road continued on East. Gibbets swung chain-squeaking. Crows squawked while the skeletons’ empty eye sockets watched the party as they rested. (Mythic random event – Carry, A prison). A mouldy sign pointed up the new road said, Barovia.
No one had heard of this town, but this did not trouble them. Places in this cursed heretic land all sounded the same. All had guttural coughing sounds, not at all like poetic flowing Spanish: truly the language of angels. For want of any better ideas they took the side road. One village to pillage was much like another, they reasoned.
Almost immediately they felt the land starting to rise. A miasmal mist seemed to settle behind them, obscuring the lands to the south and this seemed to cheer them as they forged ahead. They felt as if they were rising out of the swampy lowlands. Yes: high ground would be good to clear the lungs.
As night started to fall a river barred their path. A narrow bridge crossed the sluggish, icy flow. Ahead the land appeared to rise more steeply and a mighty forest stretched to the horizon to left and right. Ernat asked Dide if he knew the name of the forest but the magic user did not. They scratched their heads in mutual confusion. Flanders was a flat land next to the sea. What was something that was looking suspiciously like the foothills of mountains doing here? Had they come too far and were on the borders of Denmark? Impossible.
They set up camp around the base of the bridge, ready to extract a toll from anyone who wanted to cross, but they saw no one. The horses were hobbled but otherwise allowed to wander around to get what fodder they could. Their ribs were clearly visible, as were their riders’. The night passed uneventfully, interrupted only by the distant sound of wolves and the troubled dream-filled sleep of Albergio. He woke and was quiet and clearly disturbed. When pressed by Ernat, Albergio described a dream in which his father was weeping in a church (found in a random dream generator: www.gregorwright.com/memes/dream). Jurisco pats him on the shoulder and offers to hear his confession but Albergio declines. Not wanting to miss out on the attention, Eduare declared that he had a vision in the night in which the Virgin Mary came to him and declared that the other party members would make him king and give him all of their wine.
A cold draught spilled down from the tree line as the party saddled up and headed across the bridge and up into the darkened, forbidding forest.
* Where are they that there can be high lands and coniferous forests in Flanders.
* Where have all the other travellers gone.
* What does Albergio’s dream mean.
* Will Eduare become a king and where is all this wine coming from.
* From where will the party get food and drink.
* Will the horses get fed before they die of starvation.
* Is Dide serious about cannibalism or is he just being an asshole as usual.