1965-01-07 - Project Leo: Twelfth Night
Summary: The Twelfth Night marks one of the holiest celebrations in Christendom: the visitation of the three magi. An order founded in defense of the Holy Land keyed their strongest ritual protections to Twelfth Night. Before the sacred hour strikes, men with wicked intentions plan to bring the whole ward down. If the Knights of Caerleon are to succeed in their charge, they will descend into the earth and defeat more than a few black-knights. They must conquer their own defects and sins if they are to fulfill this stage of their quest.
Related: Project Leo
Theme Song: None
steve-rogers tigra bucky rogue strange 

Grounds. Ste. Marie Church. Carentan, Normandy.

Noon is still a-ways off but the grey skies marbled in clouds give little sense of warmth. The two knights follow a path down from the church along a slope barely tall enough to constitute two or three degrees high. Flattened grass and weeds cover the abandoned churchyard. The low building, a carriage house, rests flat up against a low stone wall. It's in much worse shape than the church itself, holes blown into the sides and the roof partly caved in. Whatever doors were there hold the remnants of many bullet holes and lie deeply askew.

"Such weapons," Gareth muses softly as they approach. "Who can be a knight, when any footman can destroy you from a hundred yards or more?" He trails a hand lightly along the wall and starts to do a slow walk around the building. "On the other hand, it would likewise be harder to terrorize the peasants and commoners."

Drawn by the sensation that something needs to be addressed, Taliesin has left behind the two knights, though not without a warning to both men not to attempt anything with the stone wall when not in his presence. A stern finger was pointed, oh yes.

"It's an advancement in weaponry that makes the idea of being unprepared much more harrowing than usual," he demures quietly back to Gareth as they approach. Paused before the war-pocketed doors, he considers the deep shadows behind them, pierced by weak beams of light from the damages in the smaller building's walls. "I don't see how it would be more difficult. One could blow out an entire family collected about a table for dinner with one well-aimed shot…" He might be speaking too softly for most humans to hear, but Gareth has particularly sharp hearing, so this murmur is likely audible. One step and another places him partially in shadow as he attempts to see farther into the carriage house's depths, resting a palm on one of the doors hanging askew lightly. For his interest within, his Mystical senses gain him naught, but it doesn't allay the feeling of dancing along a thin wire, waiting for it to snap with a rude and sudden twang.

Well, the brains of the operation have wandered out to investigate the carriage-house. The various forms of muscle, both pure-hearted and not, are on guard at the wall in the tunnel beneath. Roland has that expression Galahad knows so well - the itch to be doing anything, preferably fighting, other than waiting. "I hope the bard finds something useful," he says, quietly, keeping an eye on the wall. Maybe there's something entertaining behindit. Like a dragon.

Steve Rogers knocks on the salt wall, listening to see how thick it is. "I'm much more optimistic of discovery with the Wise investigating alongside us."

What could possibly be behind a stone wall covered in Templar crosses, surrounded by pure salt the bard said was a great source of keeping out evil? At least they have the dull smell of spilled ale down there, the assurance one of the soldiers in their unit came this way. The Gael, Moynahan, was after all mentioned by name. Without Strange's werelight, the cellars are totally and utterly dark.

Further down the way, the ruined carriage house features overgrown weeds (surprise!) and a vague scent of weak brine to Gareth's nose. Spent metal chunks like crossbow bolt tips lie all across the ground — bullets, the rational mind would say, if not transfixed on the medieval. Ruined crates lie inside, twisted remnants of some kind of handcart contraption (a motorcycle, long rusted), and a withered body. That sticks out, for it's not dressed in a rotted cassock and conspicuously is absent an arm.

"Think you of this," Gareth says to Taliesin, "a commoner family is practically helpless against an armored and trained knight. In his armor, he's safe from the sort of weapons they're likely to have, and they'd be lucky to know which end of a spear to hold." A wriggle of his nose as he sniffs a the air. "Bit of brine, not much else," he says absently, and then continues his dissertation. "Give that family weapons like these, though, that will go through a knight's armor, and need far less training, and that knight will likely be as dead as…well. As dead as this fellow here," he says, kneeling down the withered body. "Think you he lent a hand to someone?"

Taliesin nods absently in agreement with Gareth's thoughts on the matter. Indeed, from the thickness of the wood and even damage seen in some of the stone, armor wouldn't stand up well to these other weapons without denting dangerously at the very least.

As dead as whom now? The Pencerdd makes his way over to the knight and frowns. The body is dessicated, its skin wrinkled by time and the elements. Indeed, it's missing a limb entirely.

"Well, one could certainly say that he found his enemy disarming."

Bucky can't resist the temptation to at least inspect all this a little more closely. He's not *quite* pacing, but it's close. He's the one with the torch, so the shadows lengthen, warp, and dance, depending on where he's picking to poke his nose around. Steve gets a wry look. "As ever, you are far more patient than I."

"There is a limit to that as well. Let's to the surface and see if there are more discoveries above," Steve suggests, leading the way back up to find what's become of the wizard.

The corpse in dandy rotten wool has left them forewarned, if not forearmed. On the other hand, whatever his cause of death was will unlikely affect them. His gaping maw is a rictus grinning at the roof, proof enough that time spares none. Or whomever discarded him so.

Below, the timeless quality of the place might deepen every moment. Roland is well enough likely to find his fingernails fouled by crystals and flecked gunk from the walls, though the lightly outlined crosses scratched into the stone are peculiarly resilient in their limning. The ale on the ground remains as a small puddle flashing in the firelight, dark as wine.

"This happened long ago. There was no smell of death, even to my nose," says Gareth. "I can't say that he's relevant to our current struggle, given that." A soft sigh. "I can't say that he's not. I think there may be two trails to unravel. One now, and one then."

Not about to begin fussing about the tough-skinned corpse minus a limb, Taliesin nods again. On a whim, he pulls out the chapbook handed to him, the one that smells lightly of the spilt ale.

"Give me a moment," he mutters to Gareth as he makes his way back out into the wane light to better read the script. "Something's not adding up." The elements would have treated this body far less kindly than its current state. Given that it wears a fairly well-preserved set of clerical robes, it seems more like that a body might be…found..

"Gareth, attend!" The Pencerdd takes off as if his doublet were smoking. He hares his way at a high speed back into the church, more than likely either passing or jostling both Roland and Galahad if they've managed to make their way out of the narrow tunnel leading downwards. Immediately calling up the werelight once again, he stops short of the stone wall. "And now how in the seven hells did they get behind it to even do that?" His near-growl is accompanied by the most tentative impress of fingertips against the Templar cross markings, acting as if there were caution due to a possiblity of burns.

The bard very nearly does succeed in running into the knights. For Roland's assenting to Galahad's suggestion, and just turning towards the steps, torch held high. He hastily steps out of the way when Taliesin comes barreling back to the wall. Something about that book makes him step back hastily, as if the willworker were brandishing a live snake. "What is that?" he demands, pale eyes wide and bright in the firelight? "Did you just find it?"

Steve Rogers turns sideways to let Strange past, spinning back with shield in hand to block anything that might pursue him as he backs in the direction of the mountebank. "Is this tome something we want near'st us?"

Werelight sparkles off the crystalline salt walls and the faint scratches through the chloride frost gracing the stony barrier. Stone is cold to the touch.

Under the Sight, the blinding purity radiates the coolness of the winter season perpetually gripping the ground and crypt beyond. Stasis holds the flickerings of time at bay with a terrible sense of purpose held in place by the Divine, with a capital D. Spell anchorages pinched off all around the periphery of the wall carry that same pristine flavour.

The faintest ruddy traces to the scratched crosses stand out the more. Their origins are biological, organic, not salt or paint.

Pausing in his close inspections of the salt wall, the Bardd looks back over his shoulder at Galahad and lifts up the chapbook in show with a vaguely annoyed expression.

"This notebook was found in the satchel here," and he toes at the collection of objects with his boot. "Nothing in here but scribbles of discoveries by someone working around this church — possibly your missing friends." He goes back to squinting at the wall. "This is…blood," and he gets to scratching further at a darker patch in the line of one of the Crosses. "Gods below, they…"

A subconscious step back and the Bardd rolls his lips before glancing back at the knights. "Gentlemen…has anyone a dagger on their person?"

The mention of blood has Roland looking at his gauntlets. Which….once removed, his hands are hardly clean. There's a betraying rime of rust brown and white beneath them, as if he'd clawed at the wall before. "There's a foul spell in that book," he informs the bard, solemnly. "Be careful of it." But he doesn't hesitate to stick his gloves through his belt and come forward with the plain dagger from his belt offered to Taliesin. "They've smirched that wall with blood." It's not a question

Steve Rogers says, "Of course he hath a knife," Galahad points out, indicating Bucky with a tilt of his head, still wary with his shield for unclean threats approaching. "He always has a knife. We all have knives." It is, after all, 1183."

"Of course he hath a knife," Galahad points out, indicating Bucky with a tilt of his head, still wary with his shield for unclean threats approaching. "He always has a knife. We all have knives." It is, after all, 1183.

Barbarians they are not. How clear they make it, for all they are the origins of war. They refrain from violating the last sacred boundary until the last, pushed to no other choice. The wall awaits them, the curse of blood and damnation for a touch. One by one, sacrifices made, starting with Gareth parting his own heart-hand and ending on Galahad.

Salt blows away. Stone that was never there turns ephemeral.


Oh, oh, people of the earth
Listen to the warning
The seer he said
Beware the storm that gathers here
Listen to the wise man.
— The Prophet's Song, Queen

The cave burrows dozens of yards into a hill. Its entrance, behind a house, is barely shoulder-wide - a narrow, slippery crack in the rock that led down to larger galleries. This cavern has lain largely undisturbed since the war, mysterious and eerie worlds frozen in time. A shoe. A rusty bike. A child's coloring book. Jewelry. Cough remedy bottles. There lie the moldering remains of mattresses, straw or piles of wood shavings. Stones piled into little walls mark out spaces. Here lies a rusty fork and spoon, there, an ink bottle still screwed shut with ink inside.

The borrowed dagger's blade is sharp enough that it takes a second for the brain to catch up that ow, it stings a little.

"You have your knives, I have my Words. They cut as sharply, I assure you." His rather smug expression twitches as salt touches opened skin and…

Taliesin stumbles in place once the translation of non-real becomes reality again and blinks, looking around the cavern. "This is…madness." He does a quick head count before sighing and flexing his cut hand in its closed fist gently. "Do any of recognize this place?"

Madness, indeed. Sir Roland is white at the eyes, gray at the lips, ungloved hand on the hilt of his sword. Frozen for a moment, at the change. And then he takes a pace or two forward to examine the bike, stooping a little. He still has the torch in hand, their source of light. "No," he says, almost curtly. But there's a fissure of uncertainty in his voice.

"Nor I. At any rate, not that I recall," Galahad replies, glancing about watchfully.

The lonely grotto at least bears a long, somewhat winding passage out. None of the four knights stand with their backs to a now solid wall. Detritus of lives lived in the humblest conditions fill out the chalky gallery. Routes slither through the first chamber into deeper reaches, sanctuary for the Neustrian serfs when torment rose on their doorstep. When the neighbouring powers flooded over the lowlands and breached the Ardennes, or tried to push them to the sea, this has been their sanctuary. No one dwells here, but the scorch marks of soot on the ceiling remain indelibly inked, hieroglyphs on Egyptian papyrus for a sorry occupation and life on the hinges.

Hearing evidence that no one else has knowledge of this place as well, Taliesin takes a final account of the contents of the room, tarnished metals catching the light of the torch held by Galahad.

"Let us head for the entrance then, the source of the sun. I can barely make it out in this direction." Mindful of where he places his steps, the Bardd begins to stride towards the winding passage. "If anyone is in need of salve for their cuts, I have some here," and he pats the small belt-satchel at his hip. So far, the lute is only out of tune with a few pegs knocked too loose. Phew. No broken strings can be counted as a small win in the midst of this weirdness.

"Mind, I also have a charm or two, but that will involve a more…hands-on approach," he adds, sounding distantly amused and stifling a laugh behind his lips.

Roland just looks uneasy….nearly to the point of queasiness. Something about the book the bard has acquired has put his back up. But he neither argues nor demurs, merely looking at his hands, as if wondering where those tracesof blood and salt have come from. "No need," he says, in that same clipped tone.

Gareth is not jumping on things, but rather circling around to check out various things.

"My zeal will keep me hale, thank you," Galahad reassures, by way of declining the offer of wizard juice. "We may have need of such things later. Conserve thy strength."

The passage is long with proof of barricading, since removed. A few scratches here and there indicate where wood probably pushed up against walls. Metal nails and screws driven into the stone leave boreholes and rusty outlines behind. Weaving their way higher will get them up to the winter-scarred landscape. Still day, still bitterly dull out there. But unlike where they were minutes ago, this landscape features far more hills and graduated contours than the lonely farmlands of the Cotentin. Pickets driven into the ground round the entrance to the cavern mark its location, and given how low that fissure in the ground is, for good reason. Around the stakes, weeds and brambles — Siberian blackberry foremost among them — are still holding on despite winter.

"The offer remains." The reminder marks the beginning of silence from Taliesin. The chapbook is slipped away into an internal pocket of the Bardd's warm doublet in celestine. He minds his boots, attempting to avoid turning an ankle on any unforeseen rocks or slipping on errant moisture or cave-moss. A fingertip lightly flicks overtop a rusty screw head as he walks past it, but other than that, he continues leading the way towards the pale sunlight.

Upon exiting the wending tunnel, he slows and steps to one side, mindful of the thorny bushes growing around. Oh yes, hello old friend, he knows your spiny bite well enough. Thank the gods these ones remain inanimate. Breath fogs in the cooler air and he scans the countryside. The house, however, seems the next logical place to ask if anyone has seen any errant archaeologist-soldiers, and he nods towards it before looking back at the others.

"If someone's home, we can ask after your missing friends?"

He's not much brighter a figure even in the weak winter daylight, all dark armor and darker hair, sober demeanor. Roland seems quite content to let the wizard do most of the thinking. "A good place to begin," he agrees, softly. "Perhaps you might knock first. We are…" A glance at Galahad, "Not likely to inspire confidence in the breasts of most freeholders." Because armored knights in good condition, even relatively clean and respectable looking, are more likely to be trouble than not.

Steve Rogers looks so wholesome, though! He steps up and knocks himself to save the wizard the trouble before stepping back a little so as not to crowd the door with his armored bulk. "We represent no dark forces, here. A righteous man has nothing to fear from us."

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d10 for: 3

So very wholesome indeed. Knock-knock, who's there? The house is rather tidy and fairly well built, made of stone. When the smart rap ends, there is a faded rustle of noise on the other side. Not much else to hear as the door opens.

Sir Gareth in all his wisdom ceases worrying about the blackberry bushes for a time to perk. And then he is springing aside, a worried sound coming from his throat. "That sounds like — "

Right as Galahad is stepping back to generously make his claim, four crossbow bolts come zinging out of the dim interior. Not all aimed at the same spot, either, but in a cruciform position of all things.

|ROLL| Steve Rogers +rolls 1d10 for: 7

|ROLL| Steve Rogers +rolls 1d20 for: 19

The Bardd watches the knight approach the door and slides a glance over to Roland.

"I don't disagree," he replies sotto-voce, folding his arms tightly against his chest. A small breath of magic sluices down and into his gashed hand, knitting shut the skin within a cycle of two breaths.

Just about enough time for him to measure Gareth's reaction to odd sounds behind the door. He's got no time for any smart comments. Wearing nothing like the armor of the knights, Taliesin is deftly dodging out of immediate line of the doorway even as he brings up his hands. Another second passes and he's got the faintest blurrings of what looks like perfectly-circular shields before each palm, more ready to deal with whatever else attempts to leave the house, be it projectile or being.

He does have a shield, in this life, in this form. But a direct cross-bow bolt hit is enough to punch right through such things. It doesn't stop Roland from going into a defensive crouch, even as he draws his sword in a rasp of steel. He does not, however, attack. "What about the righteous men fearing the evil that might reside within?" he asks, rueful.

*chang!* The shield rings musically as Galahad expertly turns the bolt, deflecting it harmlessly along the curve and into some brush. The impact might've shivered a lesser man's arm but he absorbs it and flows away from the strike. "The righteous need fear no evil, for God is with us. We cannot die before we are called to His side, and when that occurs it is a joyful occasion, to be looked for with a glad heart." It works for him, at least. "Come forth!" he calls into the house. "We harbor ill for none, but you will not deter us from our aims!"

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