The Painted Ladies
The magi of Cruentis Petram decide that it is time to investigate the Painted Ladies up near Carlisle. The city itself has two parts - the southern part which is within the castle walls, and has a cathedral, and the northern part which is outside of the walls.
The guards at the gate, on seeing Shale, decide to ignore the magi and they are allowed into the city without incident. Columbanus detects a small infernal aura within the city. They locate a tavern, the Full Flagon, and go in to find some food and drink. The tavern immediately becomes silent as the magi enter, with everyone giving them a hard stare, but also not wanting to make a move. They find a table in the corner, and Umbriel manages to order ale and stew.
Several patrons leave, and a short while later a group of thuggish looking men come in. They are obviously looking for the magi, but on seeing them, start to have second thoughts. One of them comes forward, and demands to know who they are, and why they are here. Shale stands up, towering over everyone, and the thug loses confidence. He mumbles something about Umbriel being respectably dressed, and to keep her body guard under control, and leaves.
Afterwards, Umbriel has a conversation with the barmaid, and discovers that the priest at the Cathedral has been sending men around to keep everyone in line, especially women who might be thinking of taking a tattoo. She shows Umbriel her own tattoo, hidden under her sleeve, which is of a fox. The women outside the walls have been seeking independence, and worshipping the Painted Lady. She also notes that she's seen a weird woman as well, who has a strange feeling to her, like Umbriel's friends. She is at the Noisy Goose inn.
The magi leave (after Columbanus has made use of the facilities), and head outside the city. The aura at the Noisy Goose is a Faerie one, and the women are showing off more of their bodies, several of them having tattoos.
Inside the inn, it's much as before, but there is a table in the corner which seems to have a lot of empty space around it. They go and sit themselves there, and Shale has more food. They get the usual suspicious looks, and it is mentioned that the table is normally used by “Sachiko”, who will be upset with them for taking it. The magi reason that this Sachiko is probably a hedge witch, and discuss whether to give her the option of “join or die” when she turns up.
The inn door opens, and a petite dark haired woman dressed in green comes in. She sees the magi, who are discussing their plans in Latin, and gives a deep sigh, wandering over. She introduces herself as Sachiko ex Merinita, of Burnham covenant, guessing that the magi are of the Order.
She is willing to sit down and have a discussion, and seems to know quite a bit about what is going on, having been investigating herself due to the proximity of the area to her covenant. Many of the women have taken up an old pagan religion, making small sacrifices of birds to the Faerie Queen, who calls herself the Painted Lady. She is a fertility goddess, who has a realm in the nearby woods. The growth of the pagan cult has been increasing the faerie auras around here, which has helped keep down the Infernal. Some faeries have also been actively hunting demons.
She also mentions that there has recently been a big battle in Loch Leglean, and she thinks King Henry finally won against Iceland. When Columbanus asks her about the Quaesitor Trutina, who vanished from Burnham some years ago, she is cagey. She has also seen the woman who called herself Adellade, who has been nosing around up here. She was not liked, and has since gone.
She puts the magi off from trying to visit the Queen, but says that there may be a grand feast planned for next Winter or Spring, and the magi may be able to meet with her then.
Sachiko also says that the thugs have cause a little trouble out here, but they are mostly a problem in the city. They do the bidding of the Cathedral, where the rituals they hold some slightly off. Sachiko doesn't know much about the Church, but she isn't sure about the references to the Light Bringer. Umbriel however recognises this as a reference to Lucifer. The magi decide to investigate.
They head down to the Cathedral, and Umbriel goes inside where she meets an old priest. He is initially interested in talking to her, but then she feels something against her Parma, and he grows cold and demands that she leaves. She does so, and returns a bit later with the others. By this point, the old priest has summoned a group of thugs. There is a brief fight, in which none of the thugs are killed but the priest is destroyed with a mix of lightning, stone spears and demon destroying magic. He seemed to be quite a weak demon. The minds of the thugs are wiped, and left to figure things out for themselves.
Satisfied that the cult does not appear to be a threat, and could actually be aiding against the Infernal, the magi leave. It is decided to head on to Ireland, to Amargh, to see if they can find information about the Keys of Solomon.