Inouv 27, 228: Finding Bodies

Finding Bodies
Summary: Araltaidan and Victoria head along the coast towards Albion to where the trail petered off in the abduction of Baron Caedmon and Baroness Wenna. Now the piled up snow has mostly melted, they find four dead bodies and new clues to follow. Laine as ST.
OOC Date: 12/16/2013 (OOC)
Related: Any and all logs relating to the abduction of Caedmon and Wenna.
Araltaidan Victoria 
Along the Coast
It's cold, windy, and the day is very short this close to Solstice.
Inouv 27th, 228

The Rangers that travelled with Count Aldren lost the trail for those who they believe took Wenna and Caedmon at the shore line. While the chances of finding more after the snowfall are slim, there is still a chance that something more can be found. Given the importance of the two missing people, even the slimmest of chances to find more information can not be passed up.

It had taken some time for Victoria to connect the dots since her last meeting with Aldren to the disappearance of Wenna, things finally coalescing one night around the fire while she was out on hunt. Now that things make more sense the woman had volunteered, with the blessing of Count Harmon, to go and pick up the trail after she had sought out his permission. Standing along the shoreline Victoria will crouch down, a hand touching into the snow and passing over it gently as she looks off, light brown gaze narrowed in consternation at the newly fallen snow that covered up the trail that the previous Rangers had dropped off at, a glance given over her shoulder as she rises up, her cloak restlessly fettering in the wind as she takes a step back, "We just have to be keener than those last-" Said towards Araltaidan and any others with them, her head turning once more to look out in front of her, surveying the land and shoreline, that pristine snow a pain in her backside. But also a boon of sorts. Untouched clues lay beneath the snow somewhere.

Araltaidan has been giving this a great deal of thought and he came up with a few ideas. Having applied for and been granted a writ to use the King's Post, he has gathered not only what Rangers he could, even from several Houses, but also got the Master of Hounds to send out men with scent tracking dogs. Blood beneath the snow, and even tracks, is little hinderence to them as long as all the snow hasn't melted and been washed away.

He dismounts from the horse he'd borrowed and walks over to join Victoria. "Let us see if the hounds can pick up anything. If they do, it may give us some lead to follow." The horse is handed off to another so that he may have his hands free. Aralt slip his bow off and goes ahead to string it to have it ready, having learned his lesson before.

While the Royal Master Ranger walks on out ahead to get a better sense of the landscape before others come up behind, Aralt allows his gaze to slip over the snow cover … lest anything catch his eye he wishes to go and have a closer look at before the dogs are brought up.

<FS3> Victoria rolls Tracking: Success.
<FS3> Victoria rolls Chance: Success.
<FS3> Araltaidan rolls Tracking: Great Success.
<FS3> Araltaidan rolls Chance: Failure.

It is good that Aralt isn't relying on the dogs, as right now they seem more interested in each other than in doing any work. While walking the landscape, something catches Aralt's attention. It is a piece of cloth that seems to poke up from the snow. It is a bit further down the beach and is almost missed. Victoria will see it if she gets closer. The air has been cold enough that if any bodies could be found they would have remained frozen, so no strong odor of decay is likely to be found.

The male Sky Forester ranger allows his steps to drift, the agreement being the rangers will scour the landscape first and only then will the dogs come through if nothing is found, yet again. Araltaiden's grey eyes are sharp and it takes a while, hours of walking, looking, stopping frequently as they track back over this area where the trail had petered out before. His boots take him ever further out onto the icy beach scape, his grey cloak whipping around as the wind catches the wool, if not the heavier bear skin under it.

After a while he stops. Something has caught his eye and following what looks to be a faint trail of long faded foot prints that froze and then filled with fresh snow, barely traceable, he stops when he sees something ahead. Is it a bit of cloth blowing in the wind, the movement drawing his eye, "Vic."

Victoria's keen gaze will continue to sweep, her head tilting towards another ranger who comes up alongside her, the grizzled man murmuring something to her, woman nodding, the dogs not doing their jobs easily noticed. Corner of Vics lips will dance up slightly before she pushes on forwards in the snow, thigh high boots protecting her from the sink of snow in spots, lips pressing together tightly as she focuses on the landscape and not the dogs who are at each other for various heat-induced reasons. She will head out then to scour the area, crouching down in various areas, a hand reaching into the snow as she smoothes gloves over to clear it out, then up again as she hits areas that aren't covered by the other rangers, intending to hit every inch —

A pause as she hears the male Sky Forrester say her name, uncrouching from her position in the treeline up further along the shore, head swivelling around to follow his gaze to what he sees. A dip of her chin and she'll push back her hood, plaits of her braid caught up in the wind being whipped about her head as she tracks a path to where that cloth is, crouching down beside it to clear the snow around the piece of cloth, seeking to see if anything else lays around, like a body buried and attached to it, the cloth carefully dug out with those deer hide gloves of hers.

Once you get there and start to uncover it you know that corner of cloth belongs to the clothing worn underneath a knight's armor. You know because once you uncover enough you actually know there is a knight under there. There were four knights that left the city accompanying Caedmon and Wenna. When you can uncover enough of him you can find that this is definitely one of them.

Araltaidan comes on over to help Victoria uncover the body. He searches it carefully with her, "Be careful of poisoned barbs. A crossbow bolt was found that was deadly tainted at the tip." Ah, the man's body is turned over and the wound found at the neck. Because the clothing is of a padded gambeson, and other hints about the man suggest he was well fed and muscular, and not some pirate or common bandit, Aralt thins his mouth, "I -think- this was one of the Voice and the Baroness's Knight escorts. Hard to tell since if this man was wearing armour before, it's been stripped." He indicates the feet, "But as he has no boots either, surely he has been. I see no weapons either."

A pause and the Master Ranger moves to stand, "If so… there were four of them. We should look around carefully for there should be three more. None of them returned to tell us what happened."

This is a body they'll be tying to a horse to take back for more certain identification, but first, Aralt continues as he had been before so that they might find something more, if more is to be found.

<FS3> Victoria rolls Perception: Good Success.
<FS3> Araltaidan rolls Perception: Good Success.

"Well shit." Victoria will state after her careful uncovering shows that this cloths is indeed attached to a body - the cloth itself she recognized, having spent enough time in the castle and around Knights while working for Count Forrester to recognize that much, and well. It doesn't take much to recognize a body, given she's seen enough of those too. Clearing up to the mans face she'll work then at uncovering the rest of the body with Aralt, tongue pressed into her cheek as she helps to push him over, nodding her head as he spots the wounds, "Master Ranger-"

The woman's voice will lilt up as she begins to spread out, dragging her boots down through the snow trying to rock into another body, "If they took his clothes and his gear, they're liable to be using it and pretending to be the Knights-" She cautions as she continues her search as well, her cloak drifting over the snow as she pushes thigh-high boots through the snow, her hawk back on her horse, on the pommel and hooded, in wait for his turn in things if such a thing is to be had.

A careful view of the area would reveal 3 more graves. The three were a little better concealed then the first, but now that you know to look you can see them. Each knight is similarly stripped of items as the first and all bear crossbow wounds. Two of the knights died from wounds that would not have been fatal, which means they likely succumbed to poison. None of the bolts are in the bodies.

"Yes?" Aralt glances back to see what Victoria will say and he nods as he returns to spreading their search, "Aye, they might. But I'm told when tracked recently they seem to have boarded a ship and taken to the sea. They could have gone anywhere." He shifts his jaw, "Also, weapons and armour are very costly. A fortune for a knight's gear … anyone might have taken it, even after the bodies were left."

It takes time but not as long as the first before they find another one, and after a while, a third and so on. The day light is waning as the afternoon ages, heading towards evening. Araltaidan looks over the last body and watches as others have come up to tie them to horses to take them back to Stormvale. He looks grim, thinking upon what they have found, "I took the bolt that was found to be tested, to see if the poison matches that was used against the Lady Nimue's guards. We don't know if the same man is leader in this attack or if it's unrelated."

As he walks back to join Victoria by one of the dead, Aralt keeps his baritone low, "Whom do you think they might seek to fool, if they did try to pass themselves off as the Baron's knights? Others have already gone to Albion and not found them there."

"I don't know, but I always like to keep my minds eye forwards, if it wasn't just simple folk who looted their bodies - " Victoria says after uncovering another grave, pushing up with one hand on a knee to look to the Master Ranger, her head shaking slowly, "Everything is related, even when it seems it's not, wouldn't surprise me, Master." The woman states as she wipes the snow off her hands, the long day of finding bodies, actual physical clues to things, her scarf unwound from about her neck, laying across her shoulders as she seeks to cool off a bit, inside of her cheek bitten as she considers.

Her head till tilt back and she'll look up to the falling night sky as the sun crests away at the horizon, searching, "There was always this one story that tickled me as a child, the one about the wolf in sheeps clothing, yes? Four may have left but there are plenty behind, I'd be wary of attack upon the castle and the nobles within." Her tone is soft and low, a sidelong glance given up towards Aralt, her face serious, "Too many open ports. I'd be on guard."

"Easy enough … it will take more than stolen armour and house colors to get anywhere with the borders closing and everyone being searched by the Crown Prince's order. Anyone of House Albion who isn't enclosed at House Albion can simply be arrested, disarmed and brought in for questioning. I seriously doubt my lord the Crown Prince will be so careless as to allow them to come and go when their Baron is missing. We'll make certain the advice is passed on, if he hasn't already thought of it himself."

Aralt brushes off his own gloves, then draws his thick double layered cloak closer against the wind. The bodies are being loaded up on the horses to be taken back, "Let us give the area one last sweep and the dogs come through ere we go and make camp for the night. We can also look by morning light while the message is taken with the bodies. If there is anything else we might find, we don't wish to miss it." He too glances up at the waning light but they have some time yet.

<FS3> Araltaidan rolls Tracking: Amazing Success.
<FS3> Araltaidan rolls Chance: Success.

Victoria runs her right hand up through her braid, gloved fingertips playing over the pleats as she nods her head, "I'm certain he likely has, you're closest to him out of this group-" Hand sweeps from her hair off around to the other rangers who continue to sweep the area, "We'll continue to search, hopefully more is to be found on the bodies. If they undressed them, they've hopefully left something behind."

And with the continued failing light Victoria will crunch through the snow away from Aralt, carving paths through the snow and heading off to look, checking under bushes and around rocks, picking her way through snow and sand as the waves lap up onto the shoreline, ice left in it's wake.

In walking around after the bodies are uncovered Aralt comes across signs of wagons and horses departing the area, hence picking up the trail. It seems not everyone got on board the ship that left the shore line. Some departed the area on horseback or in wagons, all heading more inland.

It takes him hours more but damned if Araltaiden will give up as the sun is going down and the wind is picking up. Like a hound on the scent, something nags at him and he simply keeps walking. He crosses and recrosses something faintly seen but barely there. Fresh snow has fallen but more than that, much snow has melted over the past days due to the warmer weather. Then refrozen. He stops and looks back towards where the bodies were scattered and now long loaded and heading south. And his gaze sweeps back along a barely there track even he can hardly detect that would have been impossible to see a few days ago with more snow to hide it.

He squats down, digs through the snow and layers of ice carefully and finds a shallow rut, and further, what may have been a hoof print. On and on he goes, calling for a lantern to be brought as the light continues to fade and soon the man is heading inland, "There were … wagons here also, and horses. But the trail has had much snowfall and melt over it. Do you see it here?" He tries to point it out to others but it's hard to follow.

This decides him, "I will camp here and continue in the morning." To Victoria if she is close enough, Aralt beckons her over, "Will you head back to the castle and tell the Crown Prince what we have found? I do not wish to let the trail get older. I will follow these tracks as far as I can and ride after. The Prince must be informed."

Victoria treads through the snow to stand near Aralt, her brow tugging down as she squints into the darkness, slight shake of her head given though as she lifts up her own lantern she sees vague hints, "I have never doubted you as a Master Ranger, Master." The woman murmurs with an impressed grunt of sound in her throat, listening then to what Aralt requests of her, the woman bowing her head quickly, "Of course, when I've informed him I'll head out in the morning to follow you." She's already trailing her way back up towards the shoreline and where her horse is left, Nelan waiting patiently upon his perch on the pommel of the horse. She'll kick up the pace, as they've gone quite far from where they were originally, tracing her way back and mounting said horse, pulling it's reigns to turn it about as she gives a nudge with her knees to send the horse up in speed, both taking off into the night towards the castle, woman riding in until hints of morning begin to crest through the sky, fingerlings of clouds reaching out, highlighted by the warming sun in golds, reds, purples and oranges.

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