Ancestor's Bone

Diapers, mental strain and mechanical dragon failure

Relationships in the homestead were becoming more and more strained. Atra and Jodoque were still angry at Kel for putting the baby at risk again. Kel was irritated by Atra's long silences, and the older woman's refusal to be drawn about the events in the castle, or why she loathed the Fire Elf so much.

Jodoque thought his latest attempt at building a mechanical dragon had been sabotaged, whereas Jake was angry at Jodoque for using parts from his bear trap without asking.

Color by Drooling Fan Girl.

A quiet, wintery period starts. But Mags Corby is up to something

Although the Corbies' faerie servant Ottar had in fact removed some essential parts from the dragon, the Corbies themselves had stuck to their home and their human forms towards the end of the winter, as starving bears, foxes and wild cats had been seen close to the villages and isolated farmsteads. Also, the gang seemed to be falling apart perfectly well on its own.

But as spring arrived, they prepared to make their next few moves.

While Jodoque resumes his work as a town crier, shouting 'oyez! oyez!', two small characters watch him from a distance. One of them, a green naked faerie, asks the other 'why do you hate your formforotheringfulhood so mickle?'

With the return of tolerable weather, public life in Clwyd-Rhan resumed. Suddenly, there was a lot to announce on the Town Crier Network.

"A Gnomian envoy is paying a visit to Clwyd-Rhan to discuss a cultural exchange."
A year ago, Jodoque would have been very surprised to hear about a Gnomian envoy, or indeed actual gnomes. He would also have been startled to know what creatures were looking down at him from a rooftop.
"Tickets for this year's Mudslope Sabbath and Contrée tournament are now on sale from your local travel agent, village hag or Dogwhat inn."
Kel had already got her tickets.
"Travelers are warned that there is increased banditry in the forests surrounding Dungil Fens. Reports suggest the presence of a new gang."

This last item was a surprise to the two ... characters... observing the town crier from what to them was one of the better seats available. They had plans for the Sabbath, and they had some idea what the Gnomes might be looking for, but they hadn't seen any of the new gang activity. Anything that could make life harder for the red-headed witch and her old teacher was good news, though - but never mind that; the report had ended and the show they had come for was about to start.

Hark! The redhead awaits!

A red-haired girl lingered as the crowd dispersed, fixing her eyes on Jodoque who was gathering up his notes. When he noticed her, the girl took the brief moment of eye contact as her cue to approach him.

"Hi," said she.
"You look exhausted."
"I have a small child keeping me awake at night."

"Hee hee. Never have kids, eh? Let me buy you a drink."

Duck hunt! But what is sparkling in the distance? It's a bejeweled woman!

While Jodoque was keeping himself and the townsfolk informed, Jake was doing his bit to feed the gang of four. The decoy duck, which he had carved himself, was doing a good enough job attracting other ducks - who cares about mechanical dragons!

Jake was about to take aim at a low-flying duck when he was distracted by a sparkle from a nearby bush - a bright shimmering that nagged at him to investigate. That didn't take long; the sparkle was caused by a very attractive collection of precious and semi-precious stones.
The woman holding the collection up wasn't too bad-looking either, if Jake was any judge of what humans found beautiful.

Jake and the bejeweled woman, Mags Corby -  a match made in a fine jeweler's shop

Goggle-eyed, Jake decided to chat the jewels up a little. Perhaps if he spoke a few words to the woman wearing them first...

"Hello... uhm.. you'd better be careful around these parts. There's bandits around here."
- "Oh, I don't worry about them," said the jewels. "I'm well defended. You know how it is..."
- "Uh..."
- "As a gnome, I mean."
- "Oh! I guess so. I thought you were human. Silly, really."
- "It's because of how I speak. Did the Rite of Serfdom in the household of a human scholar. That really knocked some syntax into me."
- "Nice jewels you've got on"

Feel the energy in the homestead! It's one big party in there!

Kel had spent all morning baking bread on her own while Atra was visiting a sick tenant farmer, and the afternoon negotiating a lease with another tenant who pretty much walked over her throughout the proceedings.
Fay had been unusually loud and moody all day as well.

Jodoque had a lot to talk about when he got home, so for him to find Kel exhausted and both Atra and Jake in a pensive, introspective mood that evening was more than a bit frustrating.

Color by Drooling Fan Girl

Jake is brought under the thrall of the bejeweled woman.

Jake spent much of the next week on duck hunts, which were often unsuccessful. He hadn't mentioned the jewels to his comrades at all, but they were definitely affecting him.
"I miss it," said the jewels.

"The endless lakes, so much like this place, and yet so different"
"I'm from the dark woods myself," said Jake. "No lakes to speak of. But I know what you mean."
"Is it true that there are still some Douards in those woods?"
"Oh yeah! You know about the Douards?"
" ...Sort of. My great-great-grandmother was a slave."

Jake was silent for a while.
"It's great to be able to talk to you," he said at last. "There's a half-elvish girl with us, but she wouldn't know a Douard if it dragged her underground and fed her to the spider-goddess."

A surprisingly non-naked Kel sets up at the Mudslope Sabbath and goes to check out the scene.

The day before the Mudslope Sabbath had seen scattered showers alternating with torrential downpours and the occasional deluge. The first day of the sabbath itself, however, was sunny and dry, but Kel nevertheless had trouble setting up her tent.

Unlike the years before when the Sabbath fell later in the season, it was still too cool to go skyclad, even for Kel. However, there was mandrake and real ale, and some of the musical acts booked for this year promised to be wicked. Kel left Fay in the care of a gushing crone for a little while, and mingled.

Kel enjoys some music and some fun and games with many magical characters.

Cameo Orgy!

How many characters can you recognise? Post your suggestions on the Forum Find the full list at the Webcomic Crossover & Cameo Archive!.

Carrots on yer hat, carrots on yer chest, carrots get everywhere. Babies are yucky like that.

Sanderon, the formidable old mage, wasn't looking as spry as the last time Kel had seen him almost a year ago. But he took a keen interest in Kel, Jodoque and the baby...
...which reminded Kel to go and pick Fay up from the old lady, who by then was quite happy to give her back to Kel. It occurred to Kel, as it had to many drunkards and mothers before her, that There's Always Carrots In It.
"Ooh, she's adorable," said Sanderon, ignoring the abundant and revolting evidence to the contrary. "Who's a pretty girl then? Oh, by the way, how's Atra?"

Kel is surprised at the response she gets from Sanderon to what she tells him about Atra, and says 'don't you start'

Kel immediately let loose.
"She's just intolerable lately! Sitting at the table in silence, sulking!"
"That doesn't sound like Atra at all! Is she upset about something?"
"You could say that! But she won't tell! She's been like that for months now! The only thing I've got out of her is how she hates demons and..."


Sanderon offers Kel a mandrake, imagining that she will get completely rat-arsed. Then he gives her a beer and starts on his tale. Which is of yore.

"I need a mandrake," said Sanderon. "You want one?"
"Well, I'm not impressed by the wares on sale here. Besides, I'm nursing a baby. Uhm, so, is there something I should know?"
Sticking to light ale, Sanderon at last drummed up the courage to speak his mind.
"I don't know the whole story, but..."

"I don't know if Atra told you this, but... I wasn't her only teacher."

A flashback going back 45 years

I first met Atra when she was apprenticed to Bess Johnswort, a powerful witch who had spent a lot of time doing secret research. I had some interest in what she was researching, so I helped her out.
There was another mage involved, as well. His name was, uhh...
Crikey, forget me own head next. It wasn't the sort of name you easily forget either.

"Oh yeah. Corvinus Corax. "

Sanderon backs up hi impression that Corvinus Corax was a pillock with... an impresion

"Ha! Corvinus was something else! He was tall and gangly with long black hair and a goatee. He never wore anything that wasn't black, and managed to appear pale even though he was swarthy-skinned. And he had this stovepipe hat that made him even taller! That's fashionable now but not back then. To top it all, he had a piercing gaze which must have taken him weeks of practice with a mirror. "

In short, I thought he was a complete pillock. A total poseur.

Sanderon continues to discuss the events of 50 years earlier, and the shapeshifting envy that gave rise to them

Corvinus, Bess and I weren't exactly friends, but we tolerated each other because of the research. We all shared the thrill of tracking down obscure, banned grimoires scribbled by half-crazed mages and necromancers.
"Sampling the forbidden fruit, so to speak?", asked Kel.
"Heh. That sounds like something that Corvinus would say. But yes, that sounds about right."
"What was your research about?"
"We were trying to learn a skill that none of us had any natural talent for. Something that most witches believe can only be mastered by those like you, who have it in the blood."
"Leave my blood out of it. Well?"


Shapeshifter envy- Sanderon has it!

"Pfft," said Kel. "That is so overrated."
"That's easy for you to say. The three of us, and young Atra, thought it would be wonderful to have the ability. Like those girls you saw strutting their stuff at the seminar, making it seem easy and fun.... now, where was I?"

One day we thought we had the answer. Corvinus came up with a formula that he claimed could turn a human into a raven. He was unwilling to reveal its origin, and had even copied the manuscript in his own hand to prevent us from guessing.

Dinner in the grass - naked witches and wizards trying a nasty  herbal concoction that will make them fly

Wherever it came from, it was nauseating stuff! It contained traces of six or seven poisonous herbs, plus sheep's eyeballs, ashes from a raven's feather and pongwhiff extract. After much deliberation, the four of us decided to brew it, and try it.
"All four of you at the same time?"
Yes, we figured that it might work for some, but not all of us.

Kel and Sanderon reminisce about her hoppity-skipping around naked and under the influence of hard drugs at her first witches' sabbath. Sanderon then reminisces about a similar trip decades earlier

"So what happened?", asked Kel
"Do you remember how we first met?"

"Oh yeah! I'd just woken up from a mandrake trip! You said I'd been flapping around for days on end!"
"Well, something like that happened to us."

We awoke after six hours. Old Bess had been knocked out cold, with no memory of the past hours. But Atra, Corvinus and I all remembered flying like birds!

Sanderon takes the Flight Potion and Corvinus Corax eyes him intently. Is it because Sanderon is naked? Or is something else at play?

Two days later, we brewed the potion again, for a demonstration in front of a panel of witches and alchemists. We drew lots to determine which of us would drink it this time - it was me. I still remember the tense look on Corvinus' face, as if he still didn't really believe it would work.

I also remember flying again, in front of stony-faced judges...

Naked wizard making a prat of himself, among other things

When I awoke, the four of us were alone, and the others didn't look too happy. "What's the matter?", I asked. Turns out the potion hadn't worked at all!
"Oh yeah. All it did the first time was make us hallucinate that we had turned into crows."

So I made a right berk of myself in front of four of Clwyd-Rhan's most eminent Practitioners!

Who is stalking away behind Kel and Sanderon in panel 2?

We went to our homes to think things over. When we got together two days later, Corvinus had a confession to make.
Kel took a swig of her beer, which had been sitting on a board behind her for several minutes. It had gone a bit stale.
"You see," continued Sanderon, "the recipe wasn't the original. It needed human eyeballs, and something called Ancestors Bone."
Kel nearly choked on her beer.
"Ancestor's Bone?"

Sanderon's narration takes a detour to the Duchess' castle. Is the old man rambling, or...?

Sanderon reveals something appalling about the strategy he, Bess and Atra took fifty years earlier.

As Kel talks to Sanderon, the colour drains from her face and she collapses

Sanderon went on.
"The first time we summoned a demon, we - "
"I don't feel too good."
Clutching her forehead, Kel sank to the ground.
"I'm sorry," said Sanderon. "I understand how this could-"
"The beer! Someone put something in my beer!"

Raven Corby awaits Jodoque with ale and conversation at the ready.

Well-rested for the first time in several months, Jodoque made for the pub after reading the six-o-clock news. All was well.
His new fan/friend was already waiting for him in the pub with two mugs of ale, as she had done every evening for the past few days.
"Hi Raven," said Jodoque, and once again he had to stifle a chuckle at the thought of this freckled, plump redhead having a name like that. He sat down next to her and took the beer.

Color by Drooling Fan Girl

A cozy conversation over beer is interrupted by a crystal ball call.

"Good show tonight," enthused Raven. "I liked the Duke Henry imitation."
"Yeah, well, to be honest, I've had quite enough practice lately. I don't like the steady flow of announcements from the palace. The King doesn't do that, so why should the Duke? Anyway, how was your day?"
"Oh... normal. Been doing witch stuff. You know casting spells, brewing brews..."
Jodoque pondered this for a while. What was she really trying to say here?
"But," the girl continued, "I just can't wait to go home and practice the lute. Would you-"

A call came from behind the bar.
"Jodoque Davignon in the house? Got someone on the ball for Jodoque Davignon!"

Color by Smilodon

A heated conversation between Jodoque and Sanderon over the Crystal Ball Network, with Raven Corby looking on in the background.

Jodoque wasn't an expert at using the crystal balls, but the latest models required hardly any scrying skills. Still, Sanderon's image was often fuzzy and the sound very bad.
"Jodoque! Come to Mudslope as fast as you KCHHCHT! Kel has been phoikntchthpb!"
"Poiwhat? Raven, help me out! I'm no witch!"

"Poisoned!", yelled Sanderon. He wondered who the green-clad redhead in the background was.

Originally coloured by Sam Wallace of The unofficial Talisman Quest website. Sam's original colour files are lost, which is why this episode was recoloured for the remastering project in February 2011.

Jodoque dashes off on a horse, leaving behind a befuddled Raven Corby. Raven then talks to Caroline and Ottar

Within the hour, Jodoque had rented a horse that he could handle, and had rushed away to Mudslope.

As soon as he was out of sight, Raven Corby slipped into an alley, empty except for two small figures hiding in a window.
"I have failed," she reported to these figures.

Color by Drooling Fan Girl.

The Corbies discuss their successes with Jake and Kel, and Raven's failure with Jodoque

"I have succeeded," said Carrie Corby when the family convened that evening. "The young witch is laid up in Mudslope, far away from the others."

"I have succeeded," said be-jewelled Maggie Corby. "The gnome now thinks of nothing but his homeland. Tomorrow, he will travel to the castle to meet the Gnomian delegation."

"This leaves us with Raven's failure," said Leroukh Corby." I don't understand how that could have happened...."

Naked faerie buzzes around his masters

"Leroukh, it was because he heard about his wife..." said Raven Corby."
"I don't think you were getting anywhere," Leroukh replied. "He took your drinks and let you chat him up, but that was it. Not at all like it was with the fat one and... " he trailed off. "Anyway, it's no big deal. You did what you could. Besides, as long as he's separated from the fat old witch - "

Ottar, the family's Fae servant, interrupted him. "Mean ye the plumpful maid of tress of brown?"