As Lance and Emily returned from the ruins of Silver Lake village and Patrick came back to camp with the extraction workers, Laura Popwell approached John Henry and noted that with the work well underway extracting the Aether, she would spare some horses if he'd like to ride down the river to look over the coal mining camp if he'd like. John Henry talked the plan over with the others as they ate a hearty stew and stale rolls around a campfire on the lake shore. Lady Shaw and Lance very much so wanted to visit the end of the great road to inspect the site more closely for evidence of who was building it and what it was used for. They decided there was no reason they couldn't accomplish both. Patrick tried to explain that he wouldn't be able to wander into danger with the others because of his camp duties but Lady Shaw assured him she could have him excused.
The Adventurers woke in the early morning, Emily performed practiced her fighting stances, Lance his waking rituals, John Henry put on a decent shave, and Patrick found a good vantage point to gauge the weather. The rendezvoused at the horse hitch only to find out that nobody had any riding experience other than John Henry. After about 30 minutes of riding instruction and some embarrassing attempts at horsemanship they decided that horses only stood the slow them down. John Henry's horse was packed for the ride so he just walked it to carry gear. As they came over the rise and into view of the road they saw a small encampment on top of the road, a simple black tent and wagon and a figure standing on the road's end. Emily examined the scene with her spyglass and noticed some armored men with spears but nothing they felt especially unprepared for.
They descended the hill towards the worksite for the end of the road to find the figure, tall and lean with a long face and tangled black curls, dressed in luxurious blue robes standing between a pair of waving dark blue pennants bearing the symbol of a cross. As they approached the guards backed away warily with their spears and the lone figure strode down the beaten planks at the end of the road speaking New Crown. John Henry squinted at the words and began to translate as best he could "We come in peace.. We bring a gift from great Count Volker, noble of Bridgewater" Emily Shaw's brain was pricked to hear that the word "Count" in Old Crown was identical to it's English pronunciation. The Emisary reached into his velveteen robes and withdrew a rolled scroll with silver bollards, looking among the adventurers and presenting it to Patrick, speaking while John Henry translated "This is a key to the West to the next moon" Patrick reached to accept the scroll but Lady Shaw snatched it from him. He asked through some translation how far Bridgewater was, to which the Emissary responded "214 Flags". Looking at the even intervals of flags along the road Patrick guessed it was a Journey of just over 100 miles. Lady Shaw wanted to know the purpose of the invitation, "We want peace to our neighbors.. We will make friends". Despite the sinister appearance of the Emissary the promise of an allied native nation in the New Imperial Territories was an intriguing offer.
As the adventurers discussed this new development among themselves the Emissary withdrew back up the wooded ramps to his encampment and his soldiers immediately began to break down the pavilion. His task complete he was not staying. So the adventurers began their walk back to the camp.
Arriving a short hike back at the camp on Silver Lake they found the processing of Aether in full swing, they filled their canteens and looked decided there was time to make the trip down river to the mining camp. Lady Shaw and Lance lagged behind to show the scroll to Guy and see if he had any insight into it. Guy found the scroll very confusing, he said it used more than just the Old Crown language and it read more like a contract than an invitation, but he couldn't be much more helpful than that. He recommended they show it to Mister Montjoy of the Royal Geography Society, the man who taught him the language.
John Henry and Patrick forged ahead hiking with a pack horse. The trip turned out to be less a gentle hike along the river as thickets and falls caused them to have to navigate away from the river a few times, but the journey was safe enough. Along the way they passed the ruins of what looked to be a large town but they were on a tight schedule. They encountered Lance and Emily near the curve of the river with the mine, discovering that Emily had some keen navigation skills that allowed them to make up time on the trail. In the early afternoon they saw a quiet campsite up against the rugged cliff side on the opposite side of the river, a rickety wood bridge across stone pylons the only visible crossing.
The boards creaked and sagged as they walked onto the bridge, John Henry leading the way. Just pass the halfway point there was the crack of a gunshot and the singing of a bullet passing by John Henry's head, smoke listing from a ramshackle wooden tower up on the rocky cliff. A voice called out "I missed on purpose, state your business.." John Henry gripped the rope rail of the bridge and shouted back "Don't Shoot.. we're British, from Fort Alice.. Don't shoot!". He raised his hands and continued across the bridge. On the other side a pair of British soldiers emerged from the curve of the cliff face with rifles at the ready.
One by one the adventurers crossed and provided proof of their identity before the soldiers led them around piles of broken rock into a hollowed canyon in the cliff face. Here there were small buildings and ore containers seemingly disorganized. As they walked in an anxious man in dirty dress pants, a white shirt and clerk's cuffs approached them demanding to know what their business at the West Mine was. John Henry spun a plausible tale of needing technical details about the recent extraction of Orichalcum from the mine-head for the refinement of mining practices. The clerk introduced himself as Mr. Landry, the manager of the West Mine on behalf of the East India Company. When asked about inspecting the condition of the mine, grew uncomfortable and said that he didn't feel it was safe to allow people with no experience in a mine down in the shafts but John Henry just smiled and explained that he's a mining engineer.
John Henry and Lance went down into the mines to look about. They found the mine to be much less slapshod than John Henry had imagined it would be. The miners were experienced working a coal seam and knew what they were doing but when asked about accidents they clammed up until John Henry produced a flask of bourbon to wet the miner's dry lips, then they confessed there's a number of minor accidents but no deaths and they feel the company is pushing them to exploit the coal too quickly.
Above Patrick and Lady Shaw took the liberty to inspect the miner's barracks, a sturdy lean-to against the canyon wall. Patrick wasn't impressed with the workmanship but the workers were kept warm from a coal fireplace and seemingly dry enough.
Down below Lance spotted a man climbing out of a closed mine-head and went to investigate. As he told John Henry of the suspicious closed mine-head the cowboy simply climbed over the barricade and walked deeper into the mine with the carbide lamp he had acquired in the camp. As the pair crept deeper into the shaft the light of their lamp lit up a man cradling a Sharps rifle, his face concealed by a bandanna, he had been standing there in the darkness waiting. As John Henry instinctively reached for his paired pistols the man said in a gravelly voice "I wouldn't.. This shaft is closed, it's dangerous here.. you could get hurt." Lance raised a brow as he contemplated whether a lightning bolt would blow up the entire mine or just start a horrific fire "Then what are you doing down here?" The figure in the darkness adjusted his grip on his rifle and lowered his voice "I'm keepin simpletons from falling down shafts, now I'll see you back behind that barricade if you please.." John Henry took another second to evaluate the situation but decided against recklessness, pulling his hands from the grips of his revolvers and showing them in a gesture of peace as he and Lance backed away out of the mine head and walked back towards the open air.
As they emerged John Henry made a direct path for Mr. Landry watching nervously from his shack office. He at first thought to press the man for answers but his zeal softened at the prospect of confronting the East India Company. He insisted Mr Landry shows him the mine ledger. John Henry had a keen eye for mismanagement and the ledger was irregular but well-balanced, showing no sign of theft or loss. For all his anxious fidgeting, it appeared Mr. Landry was legitimately an honest mine manager. However as John Henry examined the ledger he realized that this mine wasn't able to produce nearly enough coal to support Fort Alice and Neverwhere.
Lance had gotten bored in the cold of the canyon and he went out onto the river shoal to write in his diary. Soon Lady Shaw came to join him and they talked a bit about the strangeness of the mine. She suggested that Lance inquire of the dead, fore surely if there were accidents there would be spirits who wanted to speak of them.
After a short concentration Lance reached out to an entity who called himself Thomas Moore. Thomas claimed to be an Engineer, but lance couldn't imagine what a train would be doing anywhere near the mine, then later said he was an architect who built webs. Madness wasn't uncommon among the lost dead so it didn't startle him much. Thomas Moore claimed to have died of Ricken Influenza, and Lady Shaw had heard of Ricken Fever from her time in India. He spoke of many deaths that plagued the city, but again this didn't make much sense far in the countryside. When asked when he died Thomas More claimed he died in the year 2432. Lance had had enough of Thomas Moore's milarky and dismissed the madman spirit.
By the time Lances little seance was over John Henry was eager to get going. So with the sun setting the adventurers set their path along a long and uneventful hike back to Silver Lake, arriving just after dark. The harvesting of Aether was apparently prodigious and Popwell and company were in good spirits, with warm supper still in the pot. John Henry pulled a bottle of the good bourbon from his pack to refill his flask and didn't see the harm in having a glass before settling in, but soon his beastly nature got the better of him and Lance and Emily Shaw found him by the lakeside crying with an empty bottle laying on the shore. They encouraged him to settle down by the fire and get some sleep.
John Henry woke under a gigantic moon, laying in the broken grass far from the camp. A shadowed figure crouched over him holding one of his pistols gingerly in it's hand as he looked it over his other pistol was missing as well. The moonlight made the figure's long hair glow like spun gold and it played off the lines of his long curved ears. The creature watched John Henry for a long moment "What curious creatures you are, always in such a hurry but no sense of what you're doing so urgently.. Perhaps that is how we came to be here.." John held his hand out for the revolver "May I have that back?". The fey glanced down at the pistol in his hands as if he had forgotten it was there and handed it back "Of course.. it's a beautiful device..with such dark purpose..". John Henry felt a terrible sense of foreboding as the Fey stood towering over him, gaunt and beautiful "Is this a dream?" She Fey shook his head slowly "No Mr. Jackson.. you're not asleep yet.." and with that he blacked out once more.
John Henry woke on the lakeside where he apparently had wandered drunk in the night, hung-over and bestranged from his dream. The other adventurers also slept poorly sleeping their third night on the ground. A poor breakfast was cooked and the camp was struck, and soon still-wounded soldiers were leading the group back towards Fort Alice. The trip through the forest was harrowing with everyone on guard, especially after seeing blood still on the road from where the battle took place. However, they found no sign of the insurgent forces. In the last stretch of the woods the steam conveyance began to make peculiar sounds and require a lot of attention. Fredrick Martins, the excursion's technicals leader wanted to stop and break down the steam engine to check for possible problems but Miss Popwell insisted that the excursion wasn't going to be in the woods at sundown and they pushed on.
Just 100 feet outside of the treeline the excursion stopped for a lunch of hard boiled eggs and pickled beef. Martins finally got a chance to examine the engine for difficulties and John Henry pitched in to offer his limited experience with the technology. Lady Shaw noticed an adorable creature near the trees and wanders over there to feed it a bit of her lunch. The beast was a fox-like animal, about a meter long, with luxurious golden hair. As she held out her food the creature rose up on it's hind legs like a dog and grasped at the food with tiny black hands. Once it was clear she was offering food other golden foxes appeared from the brush. Shaw attempted to lure the cute fox back to the column but heard a strange rustling in the grass and discovered that three more foxes and snuck around behind her. She quickly tossed the rest of her pickled beef to the side and hurried away as the cagey animals fought over it. Later when describing the animals Popwell informed her that they were known as Carlton's Foxes after explorer Andrew Carlton, mostly harmless but wild animals.
An hour later the column was moving again and pulled into the gates of Neverwhere just after dark. People came out to greet them as they arrived, taking the horses to the stables and the wounded to the doctor. John Henry went to the Hart for a survival celebration drink. Patrick would have liked a beer but unlike the bourgeois he had work in the morning so he slunked his shoulders and trudged back to the dorms for the night. Emily Shaw and Lance were on a different mission. They walked up to Lord and Lady Poole sitting on the veranda of their residence watching the crowd around the excursion and spoke to The New Imperial Territory's most British citizens.
Upon asking to speak in confidence with Lord Poole, Lady Shaw and Mr Weston were shown into the Poole's entertaining room and Sheri was served. Emily showed Lord Poole the invitation from the emissary and related their peculiar encounter. Lord Poole seemed troubled by the whole affair and complained that he couldn't read a damned thing on the scroll, he had no sense of what it said. Lance suggested that Mr Montjoy was fluent in the language and could offer a translation but Lord Poole was unmoved by the suggestion relaying a less than favorable impression of the adventurous Montjoy. He assured Lance and Lady Shaw that he'd examine the invitation and make a prudent decision about it, tucking the scroll away in his desk before seeing them out.
Emily returned to the boarding house feeling defeated only to find a small crowd of working girls trying to smoke inconspicuously in the kitchen. She wanted to have a bath but it was too late and she wouldn't be able to get the tub filled without waking the boarding mom. So the girls taught Lady Emily the proper way to take a rag bath and after cleaning up she wet to bed.
John Henry had a pint nearly alone in the silent Thursday night pub, nobody was interested in the excursion, no whores were looking for company. John Henry lamented sourly that this outpost colony town had no whore house until his pint was nothing but foam and he walked back to the barn. When he arrived he found Miss Popwell and Mr Martins painstakingly draining barrels of collected Aether into air-tight tanks to be transported back to England in the morning. Both of them were exhausted but John Henry felt energized so he sent Martins back to his bunk and spent the rest of the night performing precision cold vapor pouring with Miss Popwell. As they finished the work Laura Popwell gave John Henry a kiss on the cheek and told him that she feared her work would have been doomed without him.
Patrick Omallie woke with the customary kick to his bunk and as he dragged his sore body out of bed he actually missed the casual pace of expeditionary life. He got his work clothes on and fell into line for work at the mill. McShane hollered from the back of the hall and walked through the line with a hatchet, gesturing to Irishmen and pulling them out of line for house duty, naturally he pulled Patrick out of the line. Patrick offered some objection about being needed at the mill but McShane told him they would just get less done. McShane handed Patrick a Broom and told him to sweep the dorm floor, others were paired off to other tasks, cleaning the kitchen and privy. Patrick worked for about an hour before McShane came in and looked the floor over "Ok Patrick, it's break-time, don't make us look like slobs". McShane led Patrick into the kitchen where a pack of Irishmen were sitting around when another laborer came in the back door with a case of beers. Men passed out the beers and spent about an hour bitching about the British and the colony. Then McShane put them back to work for another hours, then it was time for another another hour break and more beers. Patrick loved the camaraderie of his kinsmen but he didn't sit idle well. With the floor swept, he took his beer to go and grabbed his toolbox to mend some loose boards on the stoop of the dormitory.
John Henry woke late in the day to find Miss Popwell's bunk made and her bags gone, apparently back to England. He walked into the laboratory but couldn't find the work in himself today. So he strolled out along the road through town watching people being very British and missing his home very badly. John Henry wanted a quality Mexican cigar, a decent American beer, a sausage that had been cooked on a grill. Suddenly it occurred to him that he could have any of those things and more, he was going to build a whorehouse here. He continued his way through the town trying to figure out where a parlor of prostitution could be built but he didn't
Emily woke vexed, after a full night's sleep she had convinced herself that Lord Poole wasn't going to do anything with the invitation and the implications of turning down a potential ally to the crown was huge. She needed more information and while she was flipping through her notebook it occurred to her that there was a faction nearby that didn't have a horse in the race. The Fey might have knowledge of this Count Volker and no reason to keep secrets. She hurried out of her dorm room, searching through the city for John Henry.
John Henry stood on the parapets of the palisade looking over the fields around the town, imagining a walled tavern close enough to the fort to be safe but far enough to be free from good British manners. Lady Shaw climbed the steps up and joined John Henry with a proposal. She wanted his help traveling to meet with the Fey. John Henry had just been turning over how to convince the powers that been into allowing him to open a whore house and it had just fallen into his lap. He agreed to give Lady Shaw his protection if she'd speak to the Pooles on his behalf about a humble gentleman's club he wanted to open.
Lady Shaw came to pay a visit to Lord Poole but he was away, which suited her just fine. She asked Lady Poole if she might speak about a citizen who was interested in starting a business. Lady Poole had her in for tea and they casually discussed John Henry's usefulness to the crown. She played the part of the good-wife, explaining that she couldn't offer any promise of a license but asking a lot of specific questions about John Henry and his business. She didn't seem to like the idea of men and alcohol being left unattended until Emily hinted that her license could convince John Henry Jackson to perform a great service to Queen and Country. Lady Poole said she would consider the matter with her husband and reflect on it after Mr. Jackson's service.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
As morning rose so did the adventurers, each packing their possessions quickly and heading out to the street outside the gates of Fort Alice. Patrick had been roused from his bunk an hour earlier than the rest by Old Nan and lead to the Company Barn to start loading supplies into the "conveyance" a horseless wagon powered by steam engine. John Henry stopped inside the tool room and gathered a selection of suitable replacement parts for the pump he had worked on and tossed them in his toolbox, just in case. By the time he got out of the barn they were firing up the Steam Conveyance, a surprisingly quiet little engine puffed the low-slung wagon up the road into the crowd. Gathered around were horse grooms and well-wishers and the last few people running with crates of supplies. With such short notice none of the adventurers had thought to secure a horse for the trip so with the exception of Lady Shaw who was afforded a place to sit on the Conveyance, the rest of them were on foot for the very long journey. Patrick noted that the excursion seemed a lot smaller than the expedition that had just been attacked and most of those missing numbers seemed to be in soldiers not assigned to the group. With just two cavalry men and four infantrymen the excursion group seemed badly under-gunned.
As the excursion was preparing to leave one of the cavalrymen rode the the head of the column and introduced himself as Sgt. Hugh James of the 1st Reformed Cavalry. He stated that he didn't expect any resistance but that any journey away from the safety of Fort Alice carries inherent dangers and while Miss Popwell was the commander of the excursion he expected that in the event of an attack his instructions would be followed without question. The main gates to Neverwhere opened and the excursion set out on the road, horses in the lead of the conveyance, labor marching behind in the fumes of the machine and the rest marching a few steps behind. The pace was lazy for the horses and the conveyance but brisk for those on foot. Emily rode atop a stack of equipment crates, scanning the edges of the treeline and following the point of her compass as she began to draw a map in her notebook.
Along the long hike across the meadow John Henry overheard one of the excursion leaders talking about the language of the Natives and he jogged to the head of the column to find out what the plan for communicating with the seemingly savage natives was. Laura Popwell was politely arguing with a Frenchman while they rode on horseback, she had decided that it was almost certain that they wouldn't encounter natives in the direction they were traveling because no other excursion to Silver Lake had countered them. John Henry seemed unconvinced, given that Popwell had gone out of her way to bring extra muscle for this trip. He struck up a conversation with the Frenchman as he walked beside him. The Frenchman introduced himself as Guy Marsten, an expert in foreign cultures who like John Henry had been contracted by the crown for his expertise. Guy informed John Henry that the Natives he had studied spoke a language they called "Nexo Crana" or New Crown. It was the language the current King of Roanoak forced all people to speak when he overthrew they previous king. Guy believed that New Crown may have evolved from Latin but that if so it had changed a great deal. During the long hike he taught John Henry a bit of essential New Crown phrases and words.
Lance struck up a conversation with Sgt James and his fellow Sgt Dursley, both seemed like amicable gentlemen if only a little haughty. They two of them assured Lance that they excursion was very safe and would likely end up being very boring and that the soldiers were accompanying the academics because it was procedure. But Lance, having a keep eye for deception instantly recognized Dursley's nervous lip biting. They expected some kind of trouble and it was causing Dursley some anxiety.
Patrick marched along with the rest of the labor behind the conveyance, overly cautious of his safety after hearing stories of the attack on the expedition that had just returned. He spoke with the others Neil Sutton, an Englishman from Longfordshire and Rondey Byrne, a Scott who had been serving time in Castle Rock just like Patrick. Both men assured Patrick that the Natives weren't interested in work excursions because work excursions don't get into Native business. Expeditions get attacked because they meddle, but Patrick couldn't help but notice that both men kept weapons on their belt. Later as they rested Patrick had a chance to talk with the driver, a laborer named Robert Norris who rose to his lofty office of Conveyance Driver by being one of two teamsters who were brave enough to try to drive the horseless wagons.
Within a few hours the town had grown smaller until barely rose above the grassy hills and within minutes of crossing into the Forrest the road had curved and the town was gone. The excursion took frequent breaks and about three hours travel into the wood they stopped for lunch, breaking out packed sandwiches and steaming a kettle of tea on the cowling of the conveyance engine. People sat and talked and enjoyed their simple meal together until slowly people began to overhear the sound of shouts and the clang of steel from deeper into the woods.
Dursley and James armed up, mounted up and road ahead on the road to see what the trouble was while everyone else grew increasingly nervous. John Henry rand down the road after the cavalrymen only to find them another 150 yards ahead, watching a fight just around the bed in the road. There were two groups involved in a melee, mean in furs with axes with shields with a star symbol, and men wearing primitive armor and livery that looked remarkably European bearing flags with a sun over waves. Dursley hissed at John Henry to return to the group when he caught sight of him but he only stepped closer for a better view. The men in European armor seemed to be losing the fight until a man in heavy plate mail lifted a strange sword above his head, slowly it crackled with energy and then he used it to throw a bolt of blue lightning at an archer attacking his men. It looked identical to Lances lightning bolts. With the shock of the sudden burst of energy the losing side grabbed their wounded and retreated further ahead down the road. John could see the men in furs pull a man in dark robes out of the ditch at the side of the road and lash him to a tree nearby. At this time John discovered the cavalrymen were galloping back to the rest of his excursion group and he hurried to catch up.
As the cavalrymen returned from the road and explained the situation people began to bicker about turning back or pushing on. Lance and several of the excursion leaders were in favor of pushing on in hopes of catching the natives off-guard. Lady Shaw and the soldiers thought it would be prudent to fall back and wait until the natives moved on. Patrick and the labor, as little as they were listenned to, were really only interested in returning to Neverwhere and somehow they managed to sway some of the soldiers as Patrick eloquently explained that men who had ambushed one armed caravan wouldn't hesitate to ambush another, especially if they were camped and unable to escape. Miss Popwell began to beat her riding crop against the cowling of the conveyance's engine until the bickering died down before she spoke "Ladies and gentlemen we have not the luxury of time. Mother England faces imminent threats from other nations. War is looming for our friends and families and our mission is essential to war machine of The Queen. I'm not going to put any man or woman in harm's way against their will but we are pressing on now with or without you and I hope you'll marshal the courage to join us quickly.." Then she begin issuing orders for people to mount-up and ready to move. Patrick raised his voice to suggest that there might be a safer route around the wood that they could take but Popwell interrupted him with a decisive tone, thanking him for his suggestion but warning him that he isn't privy to enough information to speak on the topic. Patrick was needless to say, non-plussed by the interaction.
Sgt James rode over to Miss Popwell to have a very tense exchange regarding her direction but with a glower from the determined woman the column advanced. Sgt. James turned about to address the excursion team "We are going to be proceed with caution. The attackers aren't expecting more people on the road. If they show intent to harm, horses will ride forward and through with the conveyance.. those on foot will run to keep pace, soldiers and cavalry will protect the stragglers until we reach safety. And with that John Henry finally reached the column and fell into place. As he told Lance and Patrick about the captive the Natives had taken they decided that the Sgt James could hang himself, they were going to rescue that man.
As they quickly rounded the corner of the road they could see men ahead on the road picking over the dead or sitting on the roadside relaxing suddenly scrambling to get to their feet and grab weapons. The cavalrymen drew revolvers and charged forward shooting at a half-dozen men who were blocking the road with axes and shields, dropping one of them in the hail of gunfire and running another of them down with their horses. Infantrymen took aim on the native ambushers. Native archers on the right of the road fired on the soldiers, injuring two infantryman and burying an arrow deep in Sgt Dursley's back. Patrick grabbed his laborer comrades and dragged them quickly off the road into the brush, instructing them to keep low and make their way towards the man tied to the tree and cut him free. Lady Shaw took aim and missed a shot at the archers uphill from the road. Lance jockeyed for a position to be able to affect the fight but couldn't safely discharge a lightning bolt with so many Englishmen wearing metal between himself and the natives. John Henry charged forward into the skirmish and unloaded the shot chambers on both of his Lemat Revolvers hammering two of the axemen in a spray of shot and injuring a large man with elk horns on his helmet.
Injured but ferocious the native ambushes locked up the cavalrymen, one of them delivering a brutal blow that punched his axe blade into the breastplate of Sgt James that took him off his horse. Sgt Dursley unloaded three more shots into one of the men attacking him, dropping one of them. The mounted excursion members quickly rode around the melee and the conveyance began to accelerate to follow them. Patrick noticed the big native with the elk horns draw back his axe and charge at John Henry but as he charged out of the brush the escaping riders blocked his path. Lady Shaw moved to reload but found the driver handing her his ready rifle so she took aim on one of the archers once more as the conveyance bumped along. Lance finally got a clean shot and blasted a massive bolt of electricity into the chest of Elk Horns leaving a glowing hole in his breastplate but only seeming to infuriate the huge warrior. John Henry put to shots into the Elk horns even as the man closed the distance with him, the second shot punching through his breastplate and seeming to stagger him.
As the battle raged on the remaining men with axes attacked Sgt Dursley from all sides, he drew his saber and defended as best he could but suffered terrible wounds as he frantically parried their blows. The standing infantrymen grabbed their fellows and tried to hoist them into the moving conveyance to get them out of the fight. Patrick charged in on Elk Horns and swung his Shilelagh at the back of his skull but the attack was fowled by his horned helm and left Patrick in the path of the rolling conveyance that nearly ran him over. Lance couldn't get a clear shot at Elk Horns but he put a bolt of electricity into one of the other Axemen. Lady Shaw finally got her shot on an archer, wounding him badly enough to ruin his shot. The big axeman with the elk horns took one step towards John Henry and crashed to the ground unconscious from bloodloss, so John Henry took aim on one of the other axe-weilding natives. They just stared at the fallen man with the elk-horned helmet and lowered their weapons, backing away slowly.
As the native ambushers backed away and ran into the wood, Miss Popwell doubled back and dismounted to help patch Sgt. James up and get him laid over his horse. Patrick and the laborers cut the hostage free from the tree he was tied to hurried him up the road. Lady Shaw did her best to treat the wounds of the injured soldiers. Lance and John Henry quickly searched the fallen natives and then helped the excursion group get moving again. Within about an hour the anxious group walked out of the other side of the Forrest as the sun was beginning to set. Across the field of white grain stood the tents of the encampment of the soldiers who had retreated, their gold flags flying from spears, beleagered soldiers aiming crossbows at the wearing and wounded Englishmen.
John Henry took the arm of the Native they had rescued and lead him across the field towards their camp, shouting to Guy to translate for him "Hey! No.. we're not your enemy.. We're returning your man. Don't shoot.." Guy shouting out strange slurred syllables of their language. John continued "We're hurt.. We fought your enemies.. Please help.." The man in heavy plate stood there staring John Down, energy crackling from his sword and everyone held their breath wondering if Guy spoke their language as well as he claimed. Finally the man in heavy plate spoke, Guy's translations trailing his words "I don't trust... words of strangers... You have given your strength/your courage.. You have _shown_ your courage..Thank you men of.. not of our way..You have my debt.. or I am in your debt.." It was clumsily communicated that the excursion group would camp across the road and soldiers from the Kingdom of Roanoak came across the help them unpack and to treat their wounded.
With a sense of safety the English quickly gave in to hunger and exhaustion, cooking and lounging. Emily Shaw wanted very badly to go and speak to the Roanoak people but Miss Popwell forbade it. Instead she went across the road with Guy to engage in diplomacy without her. While Emily stewed angrily a pair of Roanoak soldiers crossed the road lugging what appeared to be a 45lb skinned rabbit and a pair of proud smiles and the camp set about cooking up a big hot meal. Later Popwell returned and explained that the men served the King in Yellow, the leader of Roanoak, that the man they rescued was an exciseman of the king and the soldiers would likely have been in a lot of trouble if they lost him. She explained that the leader of their group was actually the soldier with the feathers in his helm and the man in the heavy armor was more of a bodyguard, what they call an "artist". After translating the news from their neighboring camp Laura Popwell singled out Patrick Omallie and approached him with a sense of contrition "I'm sorry if I ran roughshod over you Mr. Omallie. I was concerned with the safety of the people who were counting on me. You and your men behaved heroically and I wanted you to know I appreciate your willingness to do what needs be done.." and with that the camp slowly faded into sleep, only a few remaining awake to keep watch.
In the morning Popwell roused the camp and got people packing to go, several members of the excursion group crossed to road to thank the Roanoak soldiers for their hospitality. Lance approached the electrical knight but the man squared his side to Lance and reached for his sword in a gesture of warning. Lance raised his hands in surrender and backed away as the electrical knight spat angry words at him. Later as the excursion began moving again Lance asked Guy what the knight had said and Guy explained somewhat confidently that the knight had said 'It is forbidden' and postulated that perhaps he couldn't talk to someone else that throws lightning bolts..
Late morning brought the excursion group up over a hill and into view of a broad lake of glimmering silver nestled near a rocky outcropping in the white plains. As the group approached they found signs of previous encampments and they quickly settled into a comfortable spot by the lake. Laborers and academics began setting up the extraction equipment, running long lines across the lake and erecting booms while most of the adventurers were left to their own devices. Popwell warned that the lake water wasn't poisonous but it didn't taste very good because of the Aether condensed on the water.
Lance had spotted what looked like a more well-constructed road from the hilltop and they circled the lake to have a look. The road beyond the lake was remarkable, carved of black stone, about 40 feet wide, stretching into the distance with gold pennants flying from high poles over few hundred feet. The road looked like it was under construction recently but nobody was building it currently leaving a still impressive crushed gravel road that stretches to the meadow where Fort Alice stands.
After lunch Lady Shaw had heard about an abandoned village on the other side of the rocky outcropping and she and Lance walked around the lake to inspect it. The village wasn't very large, maybe a dozen wattle and daub buildings with collapsed roofs and the remains of animal pens from what Emily assumed was a herdsman's village of maybe two hundred people. But there was no indication of what happened to them, no corpses or signs of a fire, there were even possessions left around the homes. It was as if people just walked away from the village overnight. Searching one of the larger building ruins Lance found what seemed to be an alter with a large religions symbol made of corroded bronze. The shape of it definitely resembled the infinity symbol. Despite being in an unearthly world there was a lot of symbology from Earth in the New Imperial territories. The pair returned to camp at dusk to see the extractors soaking tarps in the middle of the lake and reeling them in to let them drain into a still that distills the Aether from the water.