1965-01-05 - Project Leo: Mining the Salt Cellar
Summary: Taliesin and Gareth make their way to looting the salt cellar, wondering where their absent soldier quarry might have gone.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
tigra strange wanda 


Crypts. Ste. Marie Church. Carentan, Normandy.

The air stings the lungs, no matter how one slices it. Salt crystals coat the floor and the ceiling, and comprise the shining, irregular white walls that fill the lower chamber of the church. In the werelight, thousands of tiny facets glitter, deathly snow on a chill Arctic field. The passageway is narrow enough the Knights have difficulty passing through, and certainly cannot pass abreast. At the landing, though, it's clear they will all be rather squashed together.

The satchel and tools discarded by the stony wall blocking their path give little enough indication for their unfortunate user's fate. The wires stick out as something much newer than the salt crystals. Dating the crosses is not easy, either, other than 'old.'

For curious minds, there lies the rest of the church and the mined yard above.

Gareth inhales deeply, tasting the scents of the chamber. It's not exactly a pleasant sensation, as sharp as the air is. He'll try to take the lead, being sturdier than the bardd. "Strange," he murmurs, examining a wire, medieval mind not recognizing it other than metal. "What was happening here?"

"I suspect that someone is attempting to break through the wall," replies the Bardd quietly from behind Gareth. Indeed, the knight is the sturdier of the two, no reason not to allow him to go first. Taliesin licks at his lips and grimaces. "This is here for a damn good reason. All of this salt… This can't be entirely natural."

The wires are thick enough to act as connective tissue between the stakes, which would imply a simple corral. The hammers and other tools found therein aren't abundant like they were in the lockup at the way house, but of a similar quality and style. The leather satchel carries a few other doodads, if poked.

"Why salt? Why not stone or timber?" Gareth asks. "It's salt for a reason. What's it a ward against?" Poke? A person with cat instincts, of course he's going to poke at the satchels, seeing what else in there. "You know, something I just realized," Gareth says, crouching at the satchels, "a wall works two ways. Is that keeping us out, or something in?"

"Salt is an excellent warding component, one of the most basic of all. To encase something in this much salt, it would have taken —" The Pencerdd pauses to consider things. "Gods below, a great amount of effort, power, and time. Imagine what could be behind the wall." He eyes it with a closed expression, no more at ease for its presence than without it.

"It's likely doing both, Gareth, and to breach it would invite disaster. Mind that you don't disturb anything further," he adds in terms of the satchels and their contents.

The satchel does not erupt in a pile of spiders scuttling out from their disturbed nest. No teeth appear to bite Gareth's hand, om nom. Sadly.

Rather the dull ring of metal and the hiss of a heavy, small chapbook within. The cover doesn't have anything much of interest except a dull print of a star at the top. On the back cover, a stain looks a bit like a set of scales. The parchment within is scribbled on by a fair hand, more scribe's shorthand than illuminated manuscripts. Several pages are creased and torn, another quite wet. Oops, did someone spill a flask of ale? Smells like it, but hard to say.

"That warning might have been better given a few minutes sooner," Gareth says wryly, now that he's strted going through the satchels. "I suppose, though," he says, holding the chapbook up to sniff gently, "that it was soon enough that you'll still be able to say 'I told you thus.'" Why Gareth, are we being catty? "You're more a scholar than I, perhaps you can make something of this," he says, holding the chapbook in offering. "Me, I think it may have made someone…drunk."

The Bardd takes the chapbook from Gareth and considers it with a moue of mild concentration.

"Aye, it does seem to have some alcohol spilt upon it. One shouldn't drink and excavate. One tends to forget basic concepts such as…oh, I don't know, wardings." He snorts. "I'd much rather not be saying things like, 'I told you thus'." Opening the notebook, he skims what writing he can read in the glow of the werelight now hovering free of his palm somewhere up over his shoulder.

The contents within are sketches, circles and lines of a wall. Marking debris, a rubbing of a headstone that contained some pretty ornamentation and the sombre reference, «Fallen in battle, Verdun.» A cross carries a small mark just the like the ones scribed onto the stone wall and into the salt wrapping around the whole of the cellar. Crypt. Basement.

The scribbles contain various passages such.
— Long day, endless rain. Cannot wait to be back in Paris for proper drinks and rest.

— Show map to Patron. Sent 2nd pkg by courier. Need corresponding images by Cicero.

— Evidence of activity in field at 05S2B. Farmer at Meautis confirms the Haute-Maison are avoided by the village. High risk of danger. Haute-Maison has been abandoned 17 years.
— Mr/Mme Beauchamp said they spotted headlights at Haute-Maison. Moynahan to investigate.

Gareth listens as Strange speaks of what's in the chapbook. "Cicero? I can't remember. Was he an emperor or senator? What do Romans have to do with this?" He stands to look over Str—er, the bardd's shoulder at the book, silently mouthing 'Moynahan,' as if trying to figure out how to pronounce it. Oh, right. Moynahan, Tigra provides from somewhere in Gareth. "Seems they're interested in fallen Franks." He pauses a moment. "A moment. Verdun. Charlemagne's heirs divided his realm there. Am I overreaching, or might there be a connection?" He starts to pace a bit. If his hips have a little sway, well, hey, Tigra. "Again, I may be jumping at shadows, but could they be trying to draw on his power?"

The Pencerdd slowly shakes his head, though at what is uncertain. Perhaps this whole atmosphere disagrees with him and he with it in turn.

"It's entirely possible. The only way to be certain would be to breach the wall and as I mentioned before, that tastes of foolhardiness." He closes the chapbook with some respect, even if it does smell of spilt ale and this sullying is a form of sacrilege to him on a bone-deep level. "There could absolutely be a connection, yes, but until we find these missing men, we may be grasping at shadows indeed."

The poor beer, seeping into the ground and staining books and wires. A willing sacrifice poured out to far too much salt, and not a drop of tequila. Alas.

The book otherwise ends off on the comment about Moynahan heading out to Haute-Maison - - the high house. Other bits of parchment should otherwise await the pen when he chooses to return. The church is silent around them, absent the serpent's servants upstairs where they left their gear packed similarly in salt and sand.

"So, then, the only thing to do is to continue looking for them?" asks Gareth of the bardd. "It could be one thing, it could be another, but we don't have enough information to come to a conclusion. The only sure way to find more information would be foolishness, so we should go back to looking, it seems?" He kneels down by the satchels and the like, getting a good long read on the scents, the better to track with. "I suppose I should try to play the hound."

"I'm not minded if you should choose to sniff about," replies Taliesin. He takes a step back, all the better to allow Gareth the room to collect the necessary scents and not accidentally influence with his own. Incense tends to take over the nasal palate, after all. He reaches up and adjusts the cowl about his neck. It subtly moves and he's quick to admonish it mentally to remain still.

Yon salt is everywhere downstairs. Leave the crypt, following those torturously tight stairs, and it's back out into the semi-ruined church. The hour has not nudged too far forward, but the breath of fresh air up here feels like water to a thirsty man no doubt. Space and light are sacred concepts. Ask any mason. The route through the nave is difficult in part to the breached Serpent crates, since their packing materials are obscured. Past the cobweb-strung pews and the broken twigs and leaves in the front of the church, the entrance at the vestibule — the arm, rather than the base of the cross — inevitably offers a view over the bucolic countryside. Normandy here is flat and pastoral, not green so much as brown given the season, fields separated by heaps of blasted rock barely mortared together. A row of crooked headstones rear at drunken angles in a vast overgrowth of tangled weeds. Someone clearly hacked a neat line all the way up to the door, revealing hints of paving stones, shrapnel, discarded bottles filmed by age and the occasional spent shell. Beyond the graveyard, the stone wall drops away to what probably served as a garage or a carriage house in the day. The low, half-demolished wooden building gives some protection along a thready little path. The salt scent races this far, implying someone wandered into the crypt or out along that route into the killing fields of Carentan, where the Nazis and Operation Overlord fatefully collided.

Once out in the open, Gareth breathes in deeply, cleansing his lungs. He doesn't lose the scent, though. He steps around the crates with feline grace, every step sure-footed, despite the obstacles. He'll take a moment to pause and look out over the countryside. "A fair land," he says in approval of it. "As quickly and as thickly as the undergrowth grows here, I'd hate to fight here, though. Except on foot." Bocage, anyone? "I'mcurious. The carriage house?" Gareth half suggests, half invites to the Bardd.

Whilst Gareth surveys the lovely green wilds of Neustria — as much later knights of a wild land will — something sticks out to his keen eye. A fluttering scrap of cloth too bright to be of ages and battles old, a peculiarly rich blue, half-hidden by a tangle of withered grass. The cotton shade would be surely an expensive bit of cloth to leave behind, and it's a curious length, about his shin.

The bard, on the other hand, may well be attracted among the headstones to one with a peculiarly similar style of weathered ornamentation as the chapbook contained on its rubbing. A twist of knotwork, a bit of carving that might imply 'tis the very source.

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