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Faith & Family

    • 37 posts
    May 31, 2018 5:54 PM PDT

    Prologue:

    Twins of Power

    Violette leaned over and picked the rare flower she happened upon while searching for her brother. Tucking the flower into her side satchel, she thanked the Sanctum. She had his trail now. The flower was a good omen. Trailing the coast on her left, she walked southerly following boot prints in the long tail grass where her kin hastily strode toward the oceanfront.


    Progressing through the long tail grass approaching the hillcrest, the ocean presented to her an unnatural lavender glow from the Veil on the horizon beside her. Growing up southeast from the Pass and north of the Steppes, she realized this was as close the Veil as she had ever been. The careening hillside dropped vertically down towards the ocean, and as her awe from Terminus’ beauty passed, she saw the outline of a man.

    Approaching the figure, easily and quietly, she asked after him hesitantly.

    “Coban?”

    The figure’s shoulders tensed briefly, but then relaxed and began to roll its shoulder’s, feigning a lack of surprise.

    “Sister, you are impeccable.” Coban announced slowly into the ocean’s gale in front of him.

    He respectfully changed his posture and turned towards her, offering his back to the cliff. It was a welcoming gesture, and it made her smile.

    “May I ask your reasoning for interrupting my afternoon’s excursion in contemplation?” he bellowed towards his sister over the whipping winds.

    Taking in the entirety of the picture in front of her, Violette ventured forward closer to her brother, so they needn’t yell over the pending storm. Twilight began to creep against the last of the blues and purple that dominated the eastern sky.

    "Brother, you escape your duties and have wandered along the high edges of the coastline for days now. Uncle’s death should not burden you so. The Celestial’s have welcomed him into infinity. You let yourself be aimless since our kin has perished. We need you, your thought and wit, hands and shoulders.” Violette paused, “You think the harvest will uproot itself?”

    She chuckled, “I have told mother you have heard rumor of good fishing game in this country, insisting this is the only reason you abandon your commitments.”

    Finishing her banter and exposing her forearms palm up, revealing ignorance and asking clarity, Violette matched eyes with her brother. Throughout the reprimand, Coban had inflated his lungs with indignation. He slowly exhaled and regained a sense of certainty. He broke the stare with his sister and looked towards the Veil of Azeris.

    “Our house has prayed and trusted in the invisible benevolence of the Celestials. For generations we have prayed and devoted ourselves, idly regurgitating ancient words. We live in ecstasy of our strength,” Coban rounded his gaze back to his sister. “We live subservient to the whims of the Celestials, and sometimes…” Coban raised his hand. “Sometimes, we must endure alone.”

    With a quick prayer, he cast an aura of protection around himself and spoke the words of semi permanence, circulating the boon upon his body. When idle within the prayer’s focus, a form of bliss could be enjoyed. It was known that these blessings should not be given unless needed. Idle warding was frowned upon as it was a disrespect to the words and an unneeded abuse of Terminus’ gifts. Violette frowned at the display.

    His lips soundlessly began casting a spell of healing, but then continued in a foreign chant, in a continual hum. Coban’s wrist began to glow a golden white glitter. Pulsating from his veins, the golden glow began to coalesce into an ethereal gauntlet. It drew in light and repeatedly burst out excess as the makings of a gauntlet began to grow armor upwards towards his now raising arm

    Extending his arm forwards, he gestured, no longer with certainty, but now in fear of the burden wrapping him within his own heartbeat. Violette reached out and immediately began spitting out the words of mending. Pouring her love and ambition of life throughout her brother’s spell, she clutched his hand and embraced his forearm.

    Coban began to drift upwards away from the landscape. Up towards the cliff’s edge, balancing above the Cliffside, he became limply prone, pulled towards the moon as a golden glow surrounded him. Weaved with a brilliant blue hue, webbing all throughout his metallically golden silhouette, a form of armor arose upon himself. Threads of golden light were placed upon his body, a great warrior’s armor emerged, encompassing Coban.

    “Brother!” Violette screamed, watching the Celestials weave their spiritual armor around her brother with a blacksmith’s formidability. Pounding an eternity’s grace of a master smith’s capability against the agony of a mortal’s soul.

    In a wretched, wrenching howl, Coban burst with light as his armor was fully forged, and the Celestials quickly abandoned him with as much haste as he had used when originally speaking the unknown words of prayer.

    With a surge of azure light and murmuring words of faith, she clutched her brother’s limp body and brought it lightly towards her, collapsed in a defeated position upon the plain’s edge. His clothes were tattered as if burned by the blessed light, but he weighed as if he wore a full coat of armor.

    Tears in her eyes, she prayed for resuscitation upon her twin, watching as his eyes fluttered and locked upon hers, all while the words reverberated through him. She let her eyes hemorrhage her dammed sorrow, no longer upset but emanating pure joy, causing Violette to weep.

    Coban now stood, cradling his sister. She dampened the remaining strips of ruined cloth upon his left bicep. He walked northerly with his right shoulder towards the now darkened sky emanating an amethyst’s glow under a forgiving sun. The gale swept an easy breeze upon his sweat ridden brow.

    Feet heavily finding the same steps through the long tail grass, heels stomped their way through the clearing. Soothingly providing extended prayers to his sister, Coban walked towards his new future.

    No longer idly watching the corruption from the side and proving his faithful abilities afterwards.

    He now would use the Celestial’s words as a hammer. No, a sword! No… Not just a sword, he would use the Celestial’s words as a sword and shield… Not just that…

    As his sister sobbed, he sternly walked back home providing words of comfort and thoughts of protection.

    He was the newly needed defense to preserve their family’s livelihood. All the families of Terminus, not just his own. He would not budge in this duty’s need. Determinedly, Coban advanced forward.

     

     *Edited by a real writer :)


    This post was edited by techninja1337 at July 1, 2018 11:01 AM PDT
    • 4463 posts
    June 1, 2018 3:10 AM PDT

    Nicely done!

    • 37 posts
    June 1, 2018 6:00 AM PDT

    Bazgrim said:

    Nicely done!

    Thanks Baz! (Big fan of your vids by the way).  Planning to keep this story ongoing, fleshing it out more and more as we learn about the world.  It always intrigued me how Cleric's picked up the book and Paladin's picked up the hammer, both pulling from the same spiritual well of power. 

    I hope to be able to show the purpose and devotion both of those classes pursue (and others) as the lore around the world of Terminus begins to broaden.  Glad you liked it!


    This post was edited by techninja1337 at June 1, 2018 7:05 AM PDT
    • 4463 posts
    June 1, 2018 8:49 AM PDT

    techninja1337 said:

    Bazgrim said:

    Nicely done!

    Thanks Baz! (Big fan of your vids by the way).  Planning to keep this story ongoing, fleshing it out more and more as we learn about the world.  It always intrigued me how Cleric's picked up the book and Paladin's picked up the hammer, both pulling from the same spiritual well of power. 

    I hope to be able to show the purpose and devotion both of those classes pursue (and others) as the lore around the world of Terminus begins to broaden.  Glad you liked it!

    That's great, tech! I'm a big fan of both Clerics and the Veil of Azeris. Can't wait to see it in-game.

    • 37 posts
    June 1, 2018 4:44 PM PDT

    Chapter 1 –

    Kin

    It had been a hard winter, and the Breythine family had suffered many losses. The cattle herd had lost some of its young to the bitter cold. Winter cabbage, meant to be a stopgap between the harvest feasts and the spring plantings, was plagued with blight and had burdened the auxiliary field with destitution. They would need to ask the town council of any elixirs that could bring life back to the land.

    The eldest member of the family, Elanor turned away from the farmstead shaking her head. Thank the Celestials that the autumnal harvest was plentiful.  For the most part it had kept her family fed through the troublesome season. Although, she had to admit that her brother’s lack of appetite had contributed to the longevity of the foodstuffs they had in the root cellar.

    Elanor’s brother, Daniel, was the high lord.  Was.  He had dutifully upheld his obligation to the family lineage. Remembering his funeral, and reliving the grief of loss, the memory of his hands was forefront in her mind as she pictured herself beside Daniel’s casket. The hands of the patriarch of the family were calcified, chiseled with long years of work with a plow, and when needed, the sword. This loss was particularly difficult on everyone.

    She could clearly see the blackened fingernails, and the frailness of his corpse. He had died under duress from the diseases spread by the ravaging nomadic undead. Elanor recalled Daniel’s reluctance to admit he had contracted this horrible ailment fighting off an attack while he procured goods from the village center. His pride and prayers had been keeping the disease at bay since the celebration of the solstice. Almost two months his cough had gone unnoticed

    When Daniel finally collapsed returning from the market during the last full moon, it was apparent then that the man was in desperate need of a Shaman’s earthbound magic. However, the closest herbalist admitted the only known Shaman had beckoned the giant eagles to help him travel swiftly to Ru’Lun a week prior. There would be no purifying of the disease. Their fleeting hope was now put upon the Celestials’ guidance.

    The twins had torn through the tomes available, all the texts here at home and from the village chapel. Utilizing all their will and knowledge, Coban and Violette were unable to find the right words of blessing to keep Daniel’s soul bound to his body. No spells from any available treatise could mend the blight within their uncle’s blood.  No resurrection spell would bring life back to their kin.

    The death of Daniel left her son with a heavy burden of uncertainty. He now was the eldest male, and would be obligated to perform the functions of the patriarch under the Breythine roof. He was of purposeful thought on many subjects, but it was obvious he was not well versed on just quite how to be the man he was now supposed to be.  Her heart strained for her son.

    Elanor knew that a certain kind of strength was needed to lead a family. After her husband fell to Black Rose bandits many years ago, when the children were still babes, she struggled to find that strength herself. She knew her son had this potential in him, but was not sure that Coban was confident in his own skin. Releasing the visions of her brother’s passing she brought her attention back to the current day’s concern.

    Striding into the kitchen she stopped at the fireplace’s large cauldron. Stirring the contents, she hoped that her son would find the will to return home, to his familial obligations. If he did not, then she would have to abandon her land and livelihood, being unable to maintain this estate with just her efforts. She knew that Violette was destined to wear the cloth, praise the Celestials, but that would mean she would relinquish bonds outside of the holy order and focus on schooling in Thronefast as soon as she was fiscally able. Gold did not just turn into platinum on its own. Well, not without an artisan alchemist, anyways. Or maybe one of the arcane addicts knew of a way. Regardless, the Breythine family was not educated in such means.

    Upset with her erratic chain of thought, she pulled the serving ladle out from the thick stew and vigorously wrapped the edge of the iron with the elongated handle of the spoon. Flecks of pepper skin and beans dropped into the simmering dish, bubbling and sizzling as she returned the lid, leaving it ajar for the steam escape.

    Walking over to the oven, placing the ladle on the countertop, she had a clear view down towards the southern fields. Violette and she had planted the corn and wheat in that field a few days prior. Elanor voiced her annoyance with a ‘tsk’ from her tongue as she noticed a murder of crows perched upon the fencing. If they were not dispersed soon they could ravage the newly planted seeds. Foul vermin.

    Noticing movement upon the tree line, her eyes shifted focus into the distance. She saw her progeny walking arm and arm under the shade of the blossoming birch and various pine that paralleled the fields. With a breath of relief, she let herself smile. The Breythine would maintain honor, yet.

    Taking care to prepare the rest of the meal, Elanor opened the oven and pulled the slate filled with dinner rolls out, setting it upon the butchering block to cool. The heat from the open oven poured into the room and fogged the already dirty window. Wrapping a thick layer of toweling linen around her hand she removed the tin baking dish containing a cheese and broccoli casserole. Some of the exposed noodles were slightly blackened from being overcooked. She placed the tin tray next to the slate and carried on with her preparations.

    Hastily rounding the oval dinner table, she placed silverware and plates down for the expected attendees. None of the dishes nor the cutlery matched, but all served its purpose efficiently. Elanor fetched a wicker bowl and a dish towel from the cabinet under the butcher’s block. She used the dish towel to pluck each bun from the slate and tossed them into the bowl before letting the heat hit her hand. Once the slate was empty, she placed the bowl of buns upon the open space in the center of the dining table, draping the dish towel over the wicker to keep in the warmth.

    Hurriedly, she went back to the wash basin and opened a drawer to the left, finding a tarnished serving spoon and thrusting it into the casserole with a satisfyingly spongey sound. She carefully took the dish and added it to the array on the table, making sure not to accidentally touch her skin upon the still scolding tin.

    Elanor grabbed an empty serving pitcher from the shelving above the wash basin and walked out the main door towards the front porch. Using a free hand, she grabbed the dangling iron rod and rang the triangle bell, startling away the clutter of birds which were meandering on the path between the cottage and the fencing. She could see Coban and Violette clearly as they maintained a walking pace down the path. Some of the livestock were staring towards Elanor, curious about the alarming noise that just occurred. Most of them, however, were chewing away at the fresh green grass without care.

    Approaching the water pump she placed the pitcher under the dripping spigot. With a full body heave, she placed all of the weight of her torso down upon the rusty iron lever. Water gushed from the faucet as she methodically motioned the metal up and down, using both arms. Within a few moments the pitcher was filled almost to overflowing, and a scattering of water turned the dry dirt into puddles of mud.

    “I’ll carry that for you,” Rilliene said. He was a soft spoken man for one of his size “I’m eager to have supper, the scents have filled the barnyard all day!” He grinned in a way that matched his eagerness.

    Elanor smiled back, gratefully, at the farmhand. He was the only one that hadn’t left after the funeral. With her son still being despondent and reluctant, the seasonal help was persuaded to pursue work elsewhere. Rilliene placed a broad palm over the top of the pitcher, gripping it with his finger’s ends and pulling it upwards, allowing his other hand to grab the handle. After securing his grasp, he rapidly shook his now free hand in an attempt to dry his palm from the water he had splashed on himself.

    “Thank you, Rill” Elanor spoke, warmly, “Come, let us return to the kitchen and serve ourselves dinner.” motioning him to advance back towards the cottage.

    Arriving back at the forefront of the porch facing the fields, Elanor could now see that her son’s clothes were sliced in an unnatural way. The clothes hung as if the winds of Terminus themselves lashed out at him and cut away. She shook her head sternly and walked up the steps.

    “Boys” she murmured, letting the screen door clatter shut behind her steps. No matter how old a man was, he was still a messy boy at heart.

    A few moments later Coban and his sister Violette finally arrived at the cottage. It had been a long walk since the morning’s events. Violette released her brother’s arm and sagged into dejected stance. She tilted her head downwards and lowered her eyes as she walked towards the front door. Clearly she was distraught. Coban breathed heavily outward in a sigh, and followed her into the cottage.

    The floorboard of the deck creaked loudly as he climbed the three small steps, as if Coban carried Kingsreach itself upon his back. A back which he straightened as he entered his home.

    Making his way through the door, he noticed that Rilliene was ungracefully mopping his stew bowl with the remains of a golden-brown bun in between his forefinger and thumb. His mother was pouring wine into a goblet that was next to a glass of water in front of Rilliene’s seat. Violette was serving herself some of their mother’s well known casserole, as Elanor placed two bowls full of steaming stew on the table. One near Violette, and one by her own empty seat.

    “Get yourself a bowl and come sit down,” Elanor directed towards Coban “then you can explain to me what in Festus’ folly happened to you and your clothes.”

    Reluctantly he followed his mother’s orders. The stew was hot and plentiful. Coban picked up a bowl and reached down into the cauldron with it. He absent-mindedly ladled three scoops of stew into his bowl and replaced the lid.

    Coban took two steps towards the table, and became aware that Rilliene was sitting in his normal seat. The only empty chair was at the head of the table. Where his uncle used to sit. He blinked, taking a hesitant moment before pulling out the chair and placing his bowl down on the table. The bottom had gotten hot from the contents of the stew.

    As he sat down the chair groaned heavily as if the weight of three men were upon it. His sister raised a worried eyebrow and his mother scowled at him. Coban adjusted himself, scraping the chair upon the floor as he sidled into a more comfortable position at the table. He began to eat.

    After a few idle moments of chewing and clatter of scrapping silverware on ceramics, Elanor raised her napkin and brushed away bread crumbs that were left on her lips from the roll she just finished.

    “So,” Elanor began, swallowing the rest of the bread. “Will you explain to me why you look as if you just collided with Terminus? The Boundary be praised you don’t seem to be in any pain, not at the moment anyways. Did your sister heal you when she found you? You realize you’ve been gone for the better part of the week, yes?”

    Coban clenched his jaw around the shredded pieces of pork and carrot in his mouth, letting out a sharp breath of air from his nostrils. His mother left him no choice but to sit at the head of the table She expected him to wear the mantle of the family’s name yet berated him like he was still a young child. Are all mothers like this?

    Preparing his words properly, taking a moment to think how to verbalize the delicate subject he was about to broach. As he opened his mouth and began to speak, his sister interjected.

    “He was tangled in a barren winter thorn patch when I found him. I believe he still heavily mourns uncle Daniel’s death, and wandered idly into a thick underbrush.” Violette shot him a look from the corner of her eyes as she stabbed stringy cheese covered green beans with her fork. “I assume he would have gotten himself out, had he brought his prayer book with him. Alas, he did not” She finished quickly, with a sad undertone.

    Elanor looked condemningly at Violette, and then turned her gaze towards Coban.

    “Winter thorn.” She said flatly. “You got caught up in a winter thorn patch.” Shaking her head, Elanor was less than pleased. “I commend you, daughter, your words of blessings seemed to launder his shirt at the same time as healing your brother. Not even a single drop of blood stains his tattered tunic. Pity, they couldn’t mend the threads as well.”

    Rilliene coughed into his hand, holding back a smirk. Coban’s eyes threw daggers at Violette from across the table. She knew better. His mother was much sharper than any winter thorn, quick of wit and highly observant.

    “Now,” Elanor sat slightly up in her chair to reach the wine bottle in front of Violette. “I’ll forgive your sister’s attempt to scorn The Keeper’s true history in order to protect you. Let that bond never break between you both.” She said, pouring the last of the fine elven wine into the depths of her goblet.

    “My Son; Will you grace me with your honesty and answer my questions?” her eyes met his from across the table.

    Coban let his grip on his fork lessen, letting out a quiet clang against the bowl. Honesty. His mother wanted and deserved honesty. Violette wanted to forget all of it, so it seems. He could not, not now, not after what had happened. Stretching his fingers and then clenching them into a fist, he felt the Celestials’ added might in his grip. She deserved honesty, and Coban began to explain.

    “I had taken the low path through the pinewood forest, edging towards the oceanfront, this was about two days ago.” Coban relaxed his fist and let a calm come over him. “I sought answers that I could not find in the words of our Ancestor’s Blessings. I read the family spell book all my life, memorizing prayers and reciting passages of truths collected by the Clerics of all eras. I spent days looking for clarity, the direction to take in order to provide for us.” Inclining his head and gesturing with his chin to everyone at the table.

    “When I could not find the guidance in the words and blessings of our forbearers, I was compelled to find meaning through peaceful meditation. As I said, I walked through the pinewood and approached the coastline. I spent the better part of middle week’s moon fasting and contemplating.” Coban stopped briefly to wet his palette and clear his throat with water.

    “On the fourth moon of the week I still had received no answer from the heavens. My thoughts were as sharp as the pangs in my stomach.” Coban continued, while all table’s members watched him with curiosity. “As they have been dominating my thoughts, I once again reviewed the days up until Uncle Daniel’s death. One moment in particular, fleeting, came to the forefront of memory.”

    “While Violette and I spent time in the chapel’s basement, reviewing old texts and manuscripts, I came upon an ancient scroll, ink faded on dry parchment. The scroll remarked a title of ‘The Time of Tomes and Swords’. A sigil and a marking of prayer was detailed. It was not an elaborate explanatory column of the truths of the Cleric’s faith, as normally seen in our study…” Coban glanced towards Violette, who frowned and poked at her stew with her fork.

    “This wasn’t so much of a prayer, so I understood it. It was more of an oath.” Unconsciously he flexed his hand again, and the outline of the gauntlet briefly shown. His mother gasped.

    “Uncle died at the actions of the darkness that torments our lands and people. We react as we can when these horrid creatures come into camp or village. We put up walls and pray, hoping the guardsmen and the Throne’s soldiers come to aid when they appear. As we know dearly, some attacks are unavoidably fatal”. Coban’s voice was grating and full of sorrow. He paused momentarily to sip again from his water.

    “While listening to the ocean and the winds, I made my decision, and the blessings of the Celestials approved. When this morning came, my dear sister startled me back to reality. Looking at her, and having her mention you, mother,” he began to choke up “my decision became concrete. I remembered the words I had read and prayed for the benevolence to guide my hand against those that would harm that which I love. In that moment, I swore an oath to become a protector. Not just of us here, but a righteous protector of all those that suffer on Terminus.” Coban stopped speaking as he remembered the challenging torment the gods placed upon him once speaking the words of righteous truth. It dared to rip him asunder. If it were not for his sister, he knew the pure ecstasy and trial of power would have ripped him from this world.

    Tears swelled in Violette’s eyes and she stood up, pushing her chair back. “You… You place too much burden on yourself, brother!” her tears leaking down her cheeks, “You mustn’t take this path. I.. I… I forbid it!” collapsing into her chair she brought her hands to her face and sobbed.

    Elanor spoke “Look at me, my son.” A tempest burned behind her eyes. “Look at me!”

    Coban did, a mason’s stone carving placed upon his face, devoid of the anxiety and fear his heart wore. He knew in his soul that he had done the right thing, that this was the right choice. The best way to protect his kin was to protect the world from the abominations within it. He would learn to wield the cleansing power of judgement, striking down the foes challenging the order and peace in this world.

    Steadily, Elanor and Coban met each other’s gaze. Rilliene fidgeted uncomfortably, the leather elbow coverings on his coat sleeves making irregular squeaking noises on the arms of his chair. He looked as if he was going to excuse himself and run towards the goat pen!

    Elanor shook her head, still meeting her son’s eyes. Then, she began to nod. She understood, and she agreed silently to herself, knowing it was the best thing for her family. She also knew, it meant that this part of her life was over.

    “You, Coban Breythine, high seat of House Breythine, have taken a single step towards a golden path.” She kept her voice steady, “Knowing that your devotion will lead you away from that which you hold as truths now, answer me this; With the Cleric’s faith that still resides inside of your soul, will you continue down a golden path full of pain, blood and anguish? No longer relieving pain, but inflicting it?”

    The young man scowled, and spared a glance again at his sister, who cried for this very reason. If he were to commit to this, Coban would forsake the Celestials’ cleric’s prayers and take up the battle cry of an ever enduring fight on behalf of Terminus’ inhabitants.

    “I do not doubt your conviction, nor do I doubt your ability to succeed in this,” Elanor paused, “But, do you believe in your abilities. Do you stand true to your convictions?”

    Words settling upon him like a boulder, the boon from the words spoken on the cliff side dissipated. Hunger emaciated him while fatigue drained his body. He found himself clutching the tables end, a cold sweat emanating from his forehead. He breathed in and out, heavily.

    “My son,” Elanor said, standing “are you alri…” her words trailed as his sister Violette all but yelled the prayers of healing at him. A blue ocean of ethereal light enveloped him, like a crashing wave of love and compassion. He released his grip on the table and sagged back into his chair, moaning quietly.

    “I am fine” he muttered through is teeth. “Sister, you shouldn’t strain your mana like this, you waste words of blessing on someone who is able bodied themselves to do so.” Attempting a tone of scorn and scolding, Coban’s heart wasn’t in his speech.

    “You, younger brother,” She said, grinning behind a tear soaked face “Have no idea of the well of power I hold, that you could hold! If only you stayed true to the faith.” With that she began a low chant honoring the memory of Havensong and raised both her hands in offering to the Celestials.

    A brilliant blue bars of light shot straight up from the Violette’s palms. She stretched her arms outwards as far as her wingspan could reach. The light was blinding, Rilliene covered his face with his jacket to avoid permanent damage to his eyesight. Suddenly, she abruptly swung her arms above her head and clapped her hands.

    The incandescent bars of light broke apart into trillions upon trillions of tiny blue orbs, scattering outwards upon the epicenter of the clasped hands. Rilliene removed the coat from his face and sat slack jawed, staring at the caretaker’s daughter.

    “Keeper’s truths be told, what did you do to us?” Rilliene asked, awe pouring from his words, “I feel I could run a league, hundreds of leagues without becoming short of breath. Ravaging Lord be damned, I could carry the whole herd on my back and run to the village!”

    With a surge of self-satisfaction Violette ignored the farmhand and turned towards her brother.

    “You see, brother. You look for a strength you could already wield.” She clutched her skirt pleats, “It seems that if you are to take this path, I must, as always, be there to make sure you do not harm yourself.”

    Elanor knew that Coban’s decision would drive her daughter to exactly this. Recalling the various entries into the historical lineage, although few and far between, moments like this had been mentioned. Their family were not always rich tradesman and merchants. At times, they were great warriors, or tricksters. Other times, they spoke to the wild and trained the beasts themselves to listen to reason. Some centuries ago their surname even held the obscure powers of magic that aided the War Wizards themselves. Lifting the goblet, she emptied it into her gullet, gulping only once.

    “Children,” Elanor said, wiping the excess wine from her lips with her wrist, “I feel you both would benefit from a discussion with the Eldest at the chapel.”

    Coban and Violette looked at her expectantly, but Elanor said nothing more.

    “You going to eat that?” Rilliene asked Coban, pointing towards the dinner roll on his plate.

    For the first time in months, Coban laughed.

     

    *edited


    This post was edited by techninja1337 at July 1, 2018 11:03 AM PDT
    • 37 posts
    June 8, 2018 6:39 PM PDT

    Chapter 2 -

    Heart of the Steppes

    Ramin swat at the cloud of gnats which were swarming around his head. His gauntleted hand made a rattling noise as it swung about. Reestablishing decorum and pushing away annoyance, he adjusted his stance. Straightening his back, he felt the dampness of his smallclothes under his chainmail. Twisting the halberd tucked in between his right elbow, he tried to maintain calm and focus back on his duties. He was on watch, after all.

    Eyes peering over the rolling hill lands, Ramin sighed. This was not his favorite place to be. It certainly wasn’t where he expected to be, for sure. When he had joined the Earl Savingail’s men, and enlisted three winters ago, the Lord spouted promises of glory while encouraging the townsfolk to join.

    For the good of the country, and all that.

    Fantasies led Ramin to thoughts of polished armor and victorious battle cries, participating in grand campaigns against the Orcs that sent their hordes through the Pass and threatened Thronefast itself. He would fight passionately and prevail! It seemed that Ramin would gain titles and rewards from the Royal Family, the way the good Lord spoke.

    The fate of Ramin Foresyth, apparently, was to stand guard at this humble village, if it could be called that. He felt as far away from the centers of population as possible. Ramin grimaced. Hundreds of leagues south of the capitol city, and hundreds north from the Port of Ru’Lun, he stood smack dab in the middle of the Steppes. This place was nowhere close to Avendyr’s Tears, which was what the locals named the river in the west. Those waters, at least, maintained a steady trade route that brought certain luxuries a man could enjoy off duty. This town was growing, true, but it was not well known nor well-travelled by the more established merchants, yet.

    His Lordship, Earl Savingail, Keeper of the Realm, Liegeman to the Throne, had grand thoughts of this miniscule village along the trading trail to Wild’s End peninsula. The Earl anticipated greater trade as the Halflings began to journey more and more into the Silent Plains. To encourage this trade, he had ordered this town be built up, among other projects. New watch towers, reinforced entryways, proper sanitation infrastructure, all the things that would be necessary to provide a strong foundation for the local peoples to settle roots of their own.

    By nature’s influence, the majority of these hill people were nomadic. Some following the grazing patterns of the long haired steer that wandered the hill country. The majority of the folk here raised the most sought after horses in the known world, thoroughbreds of the highest pedigree. To maintain this champion lineage, the ancestors of this land chose not to pen these animals, but to provide them with the freedom of the land, harbored by the protection of the Throne, Kingsreach itself. The people and herd, in unison with the land, packed up their yurts and followed the beasts with the seasons as needed.

    It would be hard to persuade the people to settle in one specific spot without the accommodations the Earl was facilitating. To make this specific spot attractive, the Earl set attainable goals, although difficult. The problem, mostly, was the need for the simple masonry supplies to build up such a foundation. The farmsteads near the coastline trailed the closest forested areas, a day’s journey at best without a burden. Carrying a supply of lumber, the quest could take multiple days, sometimes a week or more depending on the rains during this time of the year.

    Besides those within the infantrymen, there weren’t many skilled crafters in this town, either. Yes, there were blacksmiths and tailors native to the lands, those which provided for the settlers here, however, not in numbers great enough to supplement the needs of this project.

    These particular small town tradesmen were also limited in talent. They weren’t well versed, nor did they have the molds necessary, to build up this territory to the demands required by the Earl. The lack of immediately available physical resources in this geography matched the lack of native manpower for this type of campaign, it seemed. A minor inconvenience, overall, as these talents could be learned. What one didn’t have in one thing, it made up for in a surplus of others for trade.

    Commanding Officer, Knight Esquire, Senior Chief Edmond Whitehead, was well aware of the circumstances surrounding the challenges of this landscape. A Master Engineer, he had helped plan and build out a large majority of the fortifications that hobbled the encroaching forces of Northtusk Orcs. Those Orcs that would challenge Thronefast with reckless abandon. Whitehead’s well-established legacy was due to the kill zones his ingenuity in maintaining in Avendyr’s Pass. His ability in mathematics and other physical sciences made his commissioned creations and fortifications designs for the ages.

    Senior Chief Whitehead had thought extensively as to how to fortify this land. Savingail had opened his coffers full in order to fulfill the desires of the Throne. The Earl had commissioned Edmond to secure the trade route and enhance the strength of the midlands remaining stagnant between the spheres of influence to the north and south.

    To advance towards this goal, the Senior Chief needed to secure essential resources like grain and iron. The grain was easy enough to come by in these lands, thankfully. This mining operation helped provide the iron that would feed the forges. Those forges, in turn, would supply the steel to arm his men. More importantly, they would provide tools for his laborers. No pickaxe nor shovel would last forever. Unless, of course, it was enchanted. The talentless crafters of this area had probably never met a Gnome, let alone maintained a needed understanding of the Arcane.

    For this reason, the Knight Esquire had originally only assigned the specific ambitious under Officers that would eventually reach Knighthood in his eyes.  Various Cadets of all ranks were watched, if they could achieve the privilege of Knighthood, of course. If all went to plan, his ranks would fill with those who saw the opportunity in this endeavor. His current staff would then be promoted to maintain the growing numbers. All going according to plan, of course.

    Regarding recruitment, this part of the country wasn’t stricken with battle. Men wishing to join as soldiers should be persuaded by the fact that most sword swinging would not be against an enemy. Instead it would be with a sparring partner. A small comfort, but steady pay and small comforts kept soldiers satisfied. That, and his Knighthood’s legacy of operations in the north usually ensured that imaginations of a full battalion under Whitehead’s command would contain laborers first, and militants second. Just the type of men he wanted for this campaign. Calculating, yet capable arms men.

    Upon arrival, Edmond had focused his efforts with curating the refurbishment of the mining operation in this village. Chains providing motion to the lift that carried the heavier ores from within the core of the mine had seized from lack of use and rust, decades ago. Shovels and wheel barrows would not provide the capacity nor speed his Lordship’s aspiration required. It had taken the better part of the winter months to clear the two mines, sever the chains, melt the metal, rebuilding the cast iron links.

    The Master Engineer perfected the lift and pulley system that was originally implemented. As the miners lifted out ore and stone, an empty lift carriage dropped down in an adjacent mineshaft. The secondary shaft contained coal and the occasional diamond. There was plenty of excess chain and gear works. When needed, each could be pulled independently. Well-oiled and maintained, prosperity stood apparent.

    Coal was more precious to the townsfolk than the diamonds ever could be, a more than welcomed gift in this treeless area. That didn’t make the diamonds useless, per say, but without a proper jeweler to work the gems; They were just stones in storage waiting for the highest bidder to come along. Edmond had parchment hanging at all the trade posts this side of the Veil asking for artisan jewel crafters. Nobody had come.

    However, now that the mine was operational again, many others travelled into town for work. Just as the Knight Esquire had assumed. Most were content to work the mines and receive pay, others were more ambitious and enlisted under his banner in full. Those ambitions would cause them to be as capable when applying pavestones as they would be using a weapon. The Senior Chief did not maintain an army full of lay-abouts. If you joined, you “Worked toward a goal, and you fought when told!”. Simple as that.

    Cold weather having passed and the ground now softer and malleable, Edmond focused his men on the palisades and other more enduring protections, in addition to the wooden watchtowers that were originally constructed generations ago. About three quarters of a league from the mine shafts was the beginnings of an unforgiving wooden palisade. The completed portions of the wall were jutting out towards the blue sky, with men patrolling interior catwalks.

    Eight spans deep, a trench of earth was being dug, soon to be surrounding the would-be town encompassing the stone hillside. The silhouette it created insinuated the garrison that would be needed, once the was completed.

    At forty handbreadths long, the logs were shaved to points on one side. Logs were placed close to the trench in stacks and men worked to tether the top most log. Once attached to the repurposed trebuchet, the logs were dropped into the bottom of the trenches, suspended by ropes from the long neck of the offensive machinery.

    Bare-chested infantryman sweated as they pulled on crank wheel handles, bringing each log up with clanks and clinks of the metal gear shaft. Foot soldiers hurriedly shoveled in a securing a slurry of clay and dirt to gird the base of the wall. Time and again, they repeated the process, and the wall was built.    

    All in all, the landscape was being transformed into the Senior Chief’s plans. Plans that thought forward enough to envision a larger, prosperous and boisterous town. As it stood now, the remnants of the town were nothing more than bones. Good bones, but just like these rolling hills, they were sparse of a larger variety of vegetation. This town, if it could be called that yet, was still under construction. The workers and soldiers busying themselves about the land proved it to be so.

    The largest building in this aged place was an old chapel, as old as Terminus itself, it seemed. The Elder Cleric that lived there welcomed religious pilgrims who were studying and interpreting ancient texts. An elaborate library laced the catacombs, carved from the former mining tunnels directly under the chapel. Those searching for meaning among the scripts, found themselves studying beside the crypts of fallen miners, former nobles and other common folk alike. All lit by the Forever Light of enchanted candles wrought from ages passed.

    Thick ivy crept up the stonework of the chapel’s bell tower. Unkempt shrubbery grew higher too high for a properly maintained landscaped. The undergrowth was also unmaintained and the high tops of the bushes now blocked the stained glass windows that looked out from where services were held. The front doors, once elaborately carved and gilded, were worn with weather stains and substantial rot. Cornerstones of the front steps of the small steeple were worn down. Some of those stone block steps were missing completely.

    Old may it be, the chapel was the centerpiece of the small village. All things considered, it was a rather impressive sight. Now being re-forged, this village was tucked into a valley ridge that provided natural protection.

    Before the regiment was deployed to this land, there was nothing more than small mining operations. When Edmond Whitehead was done, it would be a landmark.

    This refuge of a town had an inn and a few homes that belonged to the more affluent among those that handled the administration of needed tasks. In days past, most of the miners would have lived in the multiple barracks near the rocky edges of the tallest hill by the mine’s entrance. Most of these medium sized barracks were mostly housing the soldiers of this Group. The others were homes to those under contract to mine ore and cut stone. More accommodations would be needed, soon.

    Although the ore that came from these shafts was plentiful centuries ago, this mine hadn’t been under successful employ in ages. All of the buildings were mostly left abandoned and in disrepair, matching the decrepit look of the chapel. The old foreman building had been re-appropriated as Chief Esquire Whitehead’s dwelling, his blue banner rippled against the wind upon the iron flag post in front. There he planned the development of this territory in relative solace and comfort.

    There were only a few permanent residents of this of the town. One lived in a large, square, three story building that sat across from what could only be called a village green, as pathetic as the village was at the moment. The manor belonged to Her Lady Breythine, formerly the Lady Koren Eristal of House Eristal. Their lineage, at one point, were overseers of the last successful attempt at taming these lands. Prior to the Throne’s involvement, Lady Breythine administered the operations here.

    With the lack of able bodied men staying within the confines of the mining camp, the more recent generations of House Eristal had focused their efforts on becoming horse traders, with admirable success. With that business, the efforts of the various nobles of the estate were spent outside the confines of this aging tomb.

    Eristal’s current Baron, Stuart Eristal, focused his time and accomplishments bartering with the hill folk or trading with more established Houses nearer to the Tears’ shore. During the idle winter months, Chief Esquire Whitehead had established a good relationship with the Widow Breythine. He hadn’t yet had time to make an impression on her son, the young Baron Eristal.

    House Eristal maintained a façade of noble title and influence. The estate hadn’t provided much for the kingdom in generations. As soon as the Knight Esquire and his Company arrived, it was obvious that the Innkeeper of the Rusty Pick was truly the leader of this community.

    Thomas Brows was one of the very few innkeepers living deep within the Steppes. There were only meager portions when you were this deep, but this man made sure you were always satisfied when you left his Inn. Any supply item you required was always gatherable, as long as you were patient enough while staying under his roof. If anything else, he kept his inn stocked with smoking leaves, so it put him above par within consideration of the rest of the regional innkeepers.

    Despite the traveling merchants’ levy, the previous caretakers of this territory were unable to provide steady taxable revenue. Without this, there was no way to sanction a workforce on behalf of the Throne. Not in a way sufficient to bring the Earl’s plans to fruition, that was for sure. They were nobles, however, and due the respect of their station, no matter how minor that station was.

    The Lady Widow, supported by the Baron, agreed to provide the House’s horses in training to Senior Chief Edmond and his men. This would bolster his ranks to include cavalrymen alongside his ranks of limited foot soldiers.

    Even if the Earl gave up plans to build out this Province, he would at least supply new warhorses for the Throne before personally being done there. Senior Chief Whitehead trusted Earl Savingail, but random gusts of wind can turn the greatest marksman’s arrow downward to earth. One didn’t become a great commander without planning for all eventual outcomes and adjusting accordingly.

    Ramin didn’t know much about the lineages or the townsfolk around there, nor did he care. The place smelled as old as it looked. The tasks here bored and disappointed him. He cared not for those that chanted holy words, or for traded horses, for that matter. He especially didn’t care for the miners that often tapped the ale kegs dry, before his shift was even over. Reminding himself of the scolding that he received from Cadet Major Bronsen for starting a squabble with the local ruffians, Ramin shook his head.

    “We are stationed here to be the resurrection spell to this territory, Cadet Page Foresyth” He remembered the grizzled officer explaining to him, patiently. “We are to bring this land to yield upon the will of the Throne. The Steppes are the heartland of Kingsreach, and we stand in the Heart of the Steppes. The Throne’s subjects aren’t to be bothered by your insolent tone just because your mug is dry!” Ramin frowned at the memory. The privies were especially clean the two weeks following that… conversation.

    Cadet Page Ramin Forsythe stood at the front of a gateway with no gate, under a blazing sun. On guard with Ramin, leaning heavily on the stave of his halberd while scanning the horizon, was Cadet Recruit Kervi Brandowin. He was a good soldier, but had less ambition than a summer snail. Disciplined but lazy, he was the type of man that slept above the bed linens so he wouldn’t have to organize the coverings before the morning’s inspection. This type of man worked extra hours so he could spend the surplus coin on more ale.

    Today, in the dead heat of the midday’s still air, sweat poured off of Kervi. Ramin heard a gurgling noise come from Kervi’s direction, and realized that soon they both would be relieved briefly for the afternoon’s rations. They would be returning for the third watch in an hours’ time.

    Ramin reached at the lambskin pouch at his side and poured himself a mouthful of water to quench his thirst. This heat, these bugs, this land. It all wore on Ramin. He wanted much more out of life. He gave a pleading prayer to the Celestials to provide him a path.

    The Cadet Captain stationed at the top of the palisade’s watch tower bellowed alert. An image of a white canvased caravan peaked over the far hillside to the northeast, appearing insubstantial within the haze of the heat. A small dust cloud followed the path behind the traveling folk. Raising his hand to shade his eyes, Ramin could identify three riders and two pack mules that crested the hilltop following the caravan.

    There weren’t many travelers that came that way. Most of the clergymen who studied here came from the northwest. Before the Knight Esquire claimed this land, it had been subject to many bandit raids and a most unusual sporadic incursion of undead. The Throne’s Lord Knight Paladin, in charge of this campaign from afar, gave clear instructions that the Earl conveyed to the Knight Esquire.

    “Support the people. Reinforce their defenses. Enforce the law. Protect the Kingdom.”

    Most of the locals thought the ill tidings were a result of their new found ‘friends’ from the land near the Veil. Only recently have the Halflings been traveling more frequently into the world, and passing through this backwards horse country.

    Spry and friendly though they may be, trouble always seemed to follow the Maidyn clansmen, as they called themselves. A handful of them often brought news of ill tidings to the inn as they rested their feet before adventuring again. It was overly eerie how the Halflings could smile and laugh over the dread of the undead they told stories about. Humans had a hard time trusting a creature that smiled in the face of both pain and pleasure.

    As the caravan and parade drew nearer, Ramin relaxed his guard as he was able to identify the familiar faces. These were the Widow’s kin. He let his mind wander to what Thomas the innkeeper had supplied for today’s rations. The lentil stew he had made during the last full moon was delightful. He also remembered that the Breythine household prided themselves on their stores of apple brandy.

    Watching the caravan get closer, both Kervi and Ramin held a more relaxed and vigilant stance. The Celestials had blessed them for their strength and courage. Those souls, the ones that he protected within the realm, said prayers that gifted him with good tidings.

    Ramin found his thoughts wandering, thinking about how he could get Kervi to play some cards with him in the leisure time they would have this afternoon.

     

    *edited grammar / tense

     


    This post was edited by techninja1337 at July 1, 2018 11:04 AM PDT
    • 37 posts
    June 16, 2018 12:15 PM PDT

    Chapter 3:

    A Worthy Sacrifice

    In a cavern deep below the all but abandoned mining town, three ratkin cooed erratically with anxiety. The three had been mutilated, their eyes had been gouged out. The fur around the sockets was stained with blood. They chittered and wrinkled their noses, swinging their heads to and fro, awaiting command.

    At the other end of the rocky hollow, a woman stood in a flowing silk dress as black as midnight. The shadows of the cave making almost camouflaging her if it weren’t for the pale white of her skin. The thin fabric clinging to her was cut immodestly low, and she glanced suggestively over her exposed left shoulder. In absent minded attention, she brought a black rose up to her nose and breathed in deeply.

    Fryen smirked with pleasure. Turning, she brought a bleeding finger up to her mouth and tasted the mercurial blood seeping from her small wound. The colors of the cursed boons spiraled around her and flashes of silver emanated a sickly halo of light around her. The woman let out an alluring sigh in satisfaction.

    With rose in hand, she stretched her arm towards a sobbing figure restrained by chains. She brushed the petals of the rose upon her subject’s cheek. Black ink seeped off the petals and sank into the veins of his dirty, gaunt, tear stricken, face. Fryen released the rose she was holding, the wilting remains of a blood red flower fell silently to the cavern floor.

    The man screamed with all the air he had left in his lungs, eyes bulging. He began to convulse, becoming ridged. The chains rattled as the veins within his body solidified with this ethereal poison. Each pump of the doomed man’s heart furthered the tainted spell’s effect, like a pulsating web upon his skin.

    Fryen’s eyes refocused on the scrolls of the Corrupted Cleric. Although the script was in an ancient writ, she had been taught how to speak the glyphs. She read the words upon the faded parchment. Her determination and effort showed as sweat began to pour from her forehead. Wiping the damp hair that was draping across her face, Fryen began to chant in the unknown language, beginning the incantation.

    “Sacrificium corporis sanguinem.” Fryen began, the words thread an evil spell upon the bound man.

    A gurgling gasp coming from the moribund man. The humanoid like rats began to scream in an unnatural noise, the gleeful sound echoing in the cavern. Fryen’s voice was melodic at first, but an insidious bellow began to spew from her mouth.

    “In vitae viribus ingentibus precibus inuitae,” she continued. The subject arched his back unnaturally, his abdomen pulling upwards against the restraint of his chains by an unseen force. “quondam multo vivificat mortuos vita!”

    The Necromancer threw her hands out before her, the silver streaks spiraling down her arms. The subject’s skin seemingly boiled as the black ink like substance was drawn out if his pores. The dark magic pulling from Fryen and the dead man intertwined, flowing towards the dais.

    On the center of the platform were bones. Ancient bones preserved by the holy prayers upon the coffers that once held them. As old as the conscript in front of Fryen. Bones from the days of the Remnant. The days when blood soaked the land.

    In a pulsating sizzle that hissed and steamed, the tendrils of magic braided themselves around the bleached bones. The substance coalescing in a disgusting evil sinew upon the heap, climbed through the marrow holes. Slowly, the bones latched together with the sound of snapping tendons.

    A sickly noise, like cracking joints, began reverberating through the cavern. A foul wind spiraled around the mound of oily viscous and bones, extinguishing the nearby candle flames. The calcified remains began to situate themselves in the form of a foul cadaver. Fryen continued to manipulate her forbidden magic, a snide smirk exposing her teeth as she watched the undead creature come to life.

    Despite what seemed like hours of efforts, it was plain when looking at the candles which were still lit that only a few minutes had passed. Fryen was exhausted, the energy she spent on her task had drained her. She glanced towards the lifeless body next to her.  A small smiled appeared on her lips.  Perhaps she wasn’t as spent as her subject had been. Fryen beamed with humor and self-satisfaction.

    “Come to me, soldier.” She beckoned.

    The creature lumbered unsteadily, black sludge animating its limbs forward rigidly. It got near enough and collapsed to one knee, bone knuckles supporting its weight on the other side. It waited for command, as if it could understand proper chivalry.

    Fryen took small steps into the center of the makeshift altar. She inspected the undead, auditing the consistency of her own work. She stopped circling after a third pass, standing directly in front of her new creation.

    “Will one of you vermin please provide our newest family member with a weapon?” Fryen said, idly returning a fallen dress strap into place over her shoulder blade.

    She did not turn to watch the pest’s small contest to quickly find and deliver her request. After a brief moments pass, one of the ratkin presented itself head down next to Fryen. The humanoid rat shivered in fear and concern, teeth clamped around the hilt.

    “Drop it, worthless wretch.” She demanded of the murine. It complied, letting the bastard sword fall to the floor in a clang, dirt and dust pluming upon impact.

    “Take this gift and use it well, my pet.” Fryen said to the undead skeleton. “Now, go join your brothers. You will know your tasks soon enough.”

    Turning and walking back towards her podium, the creature struggled to its feet. She could hear the rusty sword scrape on the slate floor as the skeleton began to rise. It did not wait for further order. It meandered towards the exit of the cavern in a fashion that could unnerve those of the strongest will.

    Fryen took a small handkerchief from her purse that was draped over the corner of her podium. She carefully tucked loose strands of sweat dampened hair behind her ears parting her hair.  She would have to meditate soon, as this ritual had taken most of her mana.  She patted down her forehead and neck which was thick with sweat. The red blotchy flush of effort began to fade from her face.

    Her arsenal was beginning to grow, just as was commanded. She never would have thought that the Throne would send more people to this deserted part of the land. Before then, it was getting harder and harder to raid the smaller farms and to pin down travelers. The lack of worthy sacrifices in the area was beginning to worry her.

    Now she had new bodies ripe for the pickings just outside her doorstep. Stealing a scout or causing a cave in, she now had a plethora of fresh blood for the taking.

    “Go!” She rounded on the ratkin “Go, and continue your work as commanded. Send your children to bite at the heels of the humans. Do not let them reclaim our home. Continue to bring me those that survive your onslaught”

    The three squealed in delight, satisfied with their command and with being able to leave this cursed place. They dropped themselves to all fours and scurried into the cavern out coves, scratching and digging their way away from the Necromancer.

    Leaning down upon the altar, Fryen picked up a lone, lit candle stick. She followed the path her newest creation had stumbled down. holding up a single hand, she suddenly clenched her fist. A swift wind flew through the cavern, whistling through the stone spears jutting from the ceiling and floor behind her.

    The air snapped at the candles still alight, and the cavern became dark and silent. Squeals of ecstasy could still be heard, faint within the echoes of the caverns above. Fryen smiled as she walked towards her growing army. She would be greatly rewarded for her efforts here.

     

    Squire Mishrila Setella jerked his head to the side. An unusual breeze cooled the air around him, and a faint screech could be heard behind the rocky alcove. The area he supervised was responsible for removing rubble from the interior chambers. This work was done by laborers. He was here to make sure that the ratkin infesting the bowels of this mine didn’t win any more attacks against the men that were reclaiming this part of the country.

    Mishrila hated the things in this place. It made his hair stand on end. Centipedes as large and long as his forearm often could be seen clutching to the ceiling, methodically moving along the crevasses. Deadly spiders that melded within the wall's shadows had venomous bites. Fluttering moths could shake the strongest soldiers standing absently, just by the unexpectedness of their appearance. Most men stood on edge just because they feared the ceilings would come down or thought the walls might collapse at any given moment.

    A few weeks ago this area was already operational. They lost two pages and a handful of laborers to the depths influence. The wall pillars and ceiling reinforcements were doubled since that time. Only now were the workers getting back to clearing rock. The Knight Esquire knew his way around operations like this.

    Hopefully, the fallen were crushed instantly in the rubble surrounding Mishrila as the cave-in occurred. They had only found two bodies so far. If not, the rest were to have suffered from suffocation and starvation as they slowly rotted in darkness. The Page beside him fidgeted with anxiety.

    “Page Alimier Bryant, have you something on your mind?” Mishrila asked, impatiently. “Is there something that bothers you about your post?”

    The private rolled his shoulders and placed both hands behind his back, clasping his right wrist in his left hand. Alamier was a good soldier. He was solid, dependable and smart. He was, unfortunately, completely unsure of himself and his surroundings. This gave roots to fear, and a fearful warrior died when in contest.

    The Senior Chief had asked Mishrila to school the fear out of his camp’s soldiers. That is what caused this aspiring under officer and himself to be placed in the deepest part of the mine. The Knight Esquire wanted this to be a spawning point for new Knights. Mishrila would be happy to oblige, himself almost eligible for Knighthood. If his efforts bore fruit, of course.

    “No, Squire Setella, I just…” Alimier hesitated, “I, I thought I heard something” he said, finishing in a rush.

    “What exactly,” Mishrila asked “did you hear?”

    Alamier frowned. “It was nothing, fancies of the mind in this dark place. That’s all.”

    “I doubt that’s true, Page Alamier.” Mishrila said as he turned to face the Page. “You do understand, we are on guard, yes?” He bent over to gain access to his leather pack.

    “Yes, but…” Alamier put his eyes to the ground, tilting his head.

    “I heard it, too.” Mishrila cut the Page off. Fumbling with gauntleted fingers to bring a tobacco pouch out from his travel pack. “The ratkin grow restless, their hovel is being cleared by more civilized people.”

    Alamier turned his head slightly and gave a glanced eye towards the Squire. Mishrila felt the eyes upon him, and offered out his open tobacco pouch. The Page shook his head.

    “Suit yourself.” Mishrila said, as he pulled a worn cob stemmed pipe out from his bag. The mouthpiece was gilded in copper and lead, with small interworking patterns linked together like a weaver’s work. He thumbed a portion of tobacco into the pipe and cinched the pouch closed, returning it to his leather pack.

    The laborers working in this mine were on the other end of the shaft standing around empty barrows. They were all standing in a small break under the lift. Above them the lift brought carts full of iron laden stone to the surface. They enjoyed banter and bites of jerky as the open air from the shaft cooled them. Two had even taken the moment to dice for coin.

    ‘Peasants’, Mishrila thought.

    Mishrila stepped to an adjacent alcove where a few candles flickered above a stash of miner’s tools and plan papers. He leaned over, tilting the stem slightly so he could breathe in the flame towards his pipe, puffing consistently.

    He let out a blue-grey cloud and coughed slightly, followed by a spit of the excess saliva and leaf grain to his side.

    “I asked you,” he brought the pipe away from his mouth and motioned to the rubble wall beside them, “What exactly did you hear?”

    The Page released his clench on his wrist behind him and relaxed slightly. If Squire Setella were to adopt an informal tone and smoke a pipe, there was nothing that he had done wrong. Alamier looked with concern at his officer.

    “The squeals, like before. The…” Page Bryant paused, “the monsters. It reminded me of what happened last time I was this deep, when the cave-in happened. The sounds were much further away this time, but the sick sound of joy they give. It, it puts me on edge, my Squire.” Alamier released in a rush.

    “Yes.” Squire Setella said. “It puts me on edge too, Page Alamier.” Mishrila pulled another breath of smoke from the pipe, a bloom of smoke emanating from each nostril a moment later. The cavern began to fill with the scent of burnt tobacco. The Page’s eyes watered and he let out a small cough as the oxygen began to dwindle.

    “Come, let us walk closer to the air shaft.” Mishrila said, as he realized the young Page didn’t smoke or enjoy being in closed quarters with one who did. “Let us encourage these miners to spend less time with their vices and more time working.”

    They took calm short steps in silence towards the laborers. The two soldiers could see that the lift chain was now being brought back up, letting the emptied carts return down into the depths of the mine shaft. They men were not eager to return to work, so they attempted to feign notice that the chains were working.

    “Clean up that game and stand ready to work. You have hours of light yet. If I have to stand and sweat in this ill begotten tomb of a landscape,” Mishrila barked, “then you shall sweat as well, making it a mine rather than a tomb for us all.”

    Some of the men reacted quickly, picking up pickaxes and other tools, heaving the barrows and making their swift way back towards the innards of the mine. The two who were dicing, stood up, but argued over their game. Mishrila leaned over to the Page and lifted an eyebrow.

    “Discipline these men, Page Alamier.” He whispered under his breath.

    The Page’s eye grew stern and focused. He was a good soldier.

    “You two, settle your dispute while working your duties.” Alamier said sternly. “Hand me those dice and return to the ore work, or I’ll instruct Master Brows to refrain from letting you enjoy an evening ale until the next new moon.”

    Mishrila smirked in satisfaction, his jaw clenching on his pipe's mouthpiece, exposing teeth. The two laborers glanced at the under officer, back at the Squire, and scooped up the dice. They bowed their heads in diffidence and returned the dice to a shake container, handing it to Page Bryant.

    “I will leave these with the Innkeeper after today’s shift has ended. You may enjoy your drink and your dice game as long as it is not during hours where you are under obligation of the Throne itself. Do we understand each other?” Alamier said, fervently in control.

    The two nodded and murmured acceptance as they watched the returning lift swaying erratically as it dropped nearer to the ground before them. One took a position behind the mine cart which was on the platform that just landed.  The other clasped the handle of a nearby lever.  The miner pulled the lever and the cart dropped from the platform.  Following the iron bound cart, the two laborers began heading towards the portion of the mine that was being cleared.

    “That,” Mishrila said to Alamier, “was well done.” He took another strong pull from his pipe and exhaled, letting the billowing smoke flow towards the opening, up into the midday light.

    Mishrila focused his thoughts and continued, taking another slow step, now towards the workers that were deeper into the mind.

    “Alamier, I asked you what you heard after both you and I heard the same thing. Do you know the difference between you and I, in that moment?” he asked the young Page.

    “You were the commanding Officer on duty, my lord?” Alamier asked.

    Mishrila blinked, and chuckled to himself, “No.” he said. “I simply remained calm, Page Bryant.”

    The Page looked expectantly at the senior Squire.

    “There isn’t anything more than that, Alamier.” Mishrila said, “You heard the foe, and the foe was far away. You reacted defensively for no good reason, and let your emotions rise and be seen by those around you.” A rasping cough overtook him, and he spit a dark phlegm to the floor behind them.

    The Squire wiped his mouth with his arm sleeve and continued. “Trust your instincts, Page Bryant, and you will make strides under the Knight Esquire’s banner. Trust yourself as much as he trusts you. As much as I trust you.”

    Mishrila let the words sink in as they took up position around the clangs and clinks the laborers made. Their shift was half over. He began to wonder what mess would be made for dinner tonight. Celestials be praised it was something other than the same slurry they had been eating.

    *edited - clarity / grammar / tense

     


    This post was edited by techninja1337 at July 1, 2018 11:05 AM PDT
    • 37 posts
    July 1, 2018 11:10 AM PDT

    Hi all - hope you've been enjoying my work. 

    I recently received help from somebody who actually writes for a living. They’re helping me with tense, grammar, and better story boarding. I’m an IT guy at heart, so most of my writing is email format and not so much story telling.  I hope it isn't too obvious that creative writing isn't my day trade.  :)

    As I want to make sure I’m delivering good content, I have been taking more time in fleshing out ideas when writing the next chapters. That, and personal life stuff has kept me from being able to dedicate the proper time to writing the next chapter in full – but it is coming soon!

    Cheers - Ninja

    • 323 posts
    July 15, 2018 1:20 PM PDT

    I enjoyed your stories Techninja. They show that you enjoy telling them and have a passion for writing. Keep it up.

    I am far from perfect when it comes to the craft, but have found that practice does produce a desired result.

    Don't quit, even if the only reason you write is for personal enjoyment. But I think that is not the case, as I am certain that you have many more stories to tell.

     

    Thanks for the good read.

    • 37 posts
    April 28, 2019 11:04 AM PDT

    Chapter 4 -A Guarded Welcome

    A strong breeze blew through the caravan party, causing Violette’s dark blue cloak to billow wildly for a short moment. As the gust settled, she checked on her bonnet’s placement. The tie strings were dangling unsecured from the tailored white cloth upon her head, causing the bonnet to move freely. The strings were bouncing as the mare she rode continued to trot towards the settlement.

    The bonnet did a wonderful job protecting her from the sun’s heat and kept most of the dust out of her hair. It didn’t stop her from pouring sweat, though. She rummaged in her dress pocket for a kerchief to dab away the sweat on her brow. She instinctively waved her hand at the buzzing flies about her.

    Coban rode on the lead horse, two mules tethered to his saddle. Those beasts of burden carried the family’s traveling bed rolls, clothing and other keep safes and supplies. He paid the two no mind, as they would often bray and strain the leather bands taut, as if it were they that lead this party.

    In front of Coban’s mount, Rilliene was snapping the reigns of two horses pulling the large canvas covered wagon, attempting to urge them on. Dusty dirt clouds continuously poured from the undercarriage as it clamored forward.

    The hardy cloth attached to the wagon pulsated, rippling while the wind passed. Threads from the frayed ends of patched portions were being further strained by the infrequent wafts of air from the country side. Filled to the top with dried oats and beans, the twine securing the tops of linen satchels flicked about in the passing winds.

    The wagon held half a dozen satchels like that, among other things. Most importantly were the two large casks of hard apple cider and a smaller half keg’s worth of apple brandy. The oak barrels were sturdy and sat unfazed by the movement of the wagon, unlike the bags of grain and bushels of winter vegetables.

    The sun beat down upon the party in the midday air. Rilliene seemed unphased by it, although the back of his neck was as bright as a tomato as he hunched over the reins. He jerked them briefly to keep his misbehaving horses in line.

    “Almost there” the farmhand yelled as he pointed ahead “Two, three more hills at most.”

    The group’s horses flared nostrils and grunted as they spotted men meandering about the grassland in front of Barrow’s Hold.

    Elanor trailed behind, keeping a much slower pace than the rest of the caravan. Her grey riding gloves were dirtied, speckled with dust and sweat stains. She tensely gripped the saddle fork and let her horse lead forward, reins held loose. As they grew nearer to their destination, she kept being reminded of her poor relations with her sister in law since her brother’s passing.

    She was embarrassed with herself and lamenting the awkward conversation ahead, where she would be asking for Koren’s help. The disparity between their two families were never more apparent than when their farm would not produce. Her brother, Daniel, made things work without Elanor feeling like a burden. Without that buffer, Breythine familial pride made the meetings after Daniel’s passing difficult.

    It had been a span of months since the last correspondence between Elanor and Koren. Koren had been urging Elanor to have the children visit, to begin their studies again at the chapel. The widow was explaining how much was changing, and how a familiar face would strengthen their resolve. In the dark days of winter, heavy with the grief of loss, Elanor never returned words to Koren.

    Focusing back on the now, Elanor guided her bay back towards the center of the country road, urging it to move slightly faster. She began to remember how her efforts to mend her relationship with her sister in law will pale between that of the minister here. Coban had showed much promise, and Semick would more than likely be upset with Coban’s choice to put down the book.

    Almost sensing her thoughts, Coban slowed his mare to meet with his mother’s advance. A warm breeze whipped through the open landscape around them. Crystal clear blue sky painted with wisps of feathery white clouds drifted lazily across the sky. The greens and golden browns skewed about the countryside waved back and forth as the air caressed the fields.

    “Are you well mother?” Coban inquired, “You have lagged behind a better part of this trip into the plains.”

    “The heat must have gotten to me early, Coban.” Elanor admitted “That, and I’m afraid many thoughts of late have been occupying my mind.”

    A flutter of starlings in the distance poured out from the closest hillside, and like a serpent chasing its tail, the flowing birds danced along the skyline. They drifted far off into the horizon.

    “I can understand why, things haven’t been easy lately.” Coban confessed “I haven’t been who I should have been for the family.” He let the weight of his words settle for a moment, then added, “I wish Uncle were still here.”

    Elanor very much saw the boy still, trying hard to be a man. Once her brother returned from his campaign in the north, Daniel did his best to be a positive presence in Coban’s life. The time spent was all too short, and Coban now searched for his own path and meaning, still without a guide. She could not blame him for pursuing such a righteous path that he had found, despite what this meant for Violette and herself.

    Why the Celestial’s have burdened her family with so much death and misfortune? What bane has taken hold of their family name? Lost in thought once more, she realized she had let the conversation lull for too long.

    “You do the best you can, Coban. You always have. Celestial’s be praised I have a son as strong of will as you are.” Elanor extended a hand towards her son’s forearm and gripped it tightly.

    They continued to ride in silence side by side over the hilltop. Smoke trails in small thin plumes were rising over the next hill. The grassy hillside protruded with stone boulders with greater concentration here, weather worn from the generations of life in the plains. Some bore ancient ritual markings, but none knew for what purpose.

    What was new about the landscape were the signs of people. Not an abundance of people, no. More than normally would be present in this part of the country side, though. A shepherd’s dog came yapping down the fencing to the east. The mules drifted away from the dog’s muzzle, slightly pulling at Coban’s mount. He pulled them back in with some effort.

    A whistle in the distance pulled the dog away, still barking at the cloven beasts of burden starting to make their way down the opposite side of the hill. As the party drew closer, quite a few men in the fields were beginning to be easily distinguished as soldiers.

    Sword cladded men running exercises, men with bushels of grain or in groups carrying wooden logs from a storage pile up the same hill the caravan was traversing. As the final portion of the party crested the hill, Elanor witnessed some men in nothing but loincloth and tabard digging away at a clay pit. She turned away.

    Violette blushed at the sight and similarly turned her head away and down, patting her forehead vigorously with her kerchief. She grew up on a small farm, and was no stranger to a man’s anatomy, but this was altogether something different. After all, none of these men were family.

    Eyeing his sister and the men at work in the grassland, Coban reared forward to the front of the caravan party and attempted to bury his frustrations. This town was a quiet, church town. It wasn’t a warrior’s training yard! How dare these men deface the land that the ancient pilgrims used in search of guidance from the gods.

    Passing the pack mules restraint’s over to Rilliene, Coban began trotting ahead, wanting this trip to be over. He found himself wondering where they found all the trees for the rather impressive wall being built. Abruptly, he was stopped at a new makeshift gateway on the main road into the city. The brown mare whinnied and skittered back a few steps as the two guards stepped into the road.

    “Easy lad, no need to be in such a rush. We’ll have to log ya party into the books” Recruit Bandowin explained to Coban in an accent from the southern coast. “Name?”

    The young man jumped down and met Page Forsythe’s familiar eyes, moving his sights back to the Recruit on guard that addressed him. He was arrogant for a youth just becoming a man. Especially without the garb of a nobleman, and especially without garnishing a weapon.

    “I am Coban Breythine, High Seat of House Breythine.” Coban said, giving a partial and inexperienced bow.

    “‘House’ Breythine?” Kervi chortled. “Farmers passing for nobles in these parts, eh Ramin?”

    Coban tightened his jaw and clenched his fist. Ramin examined the rising rage in this youth’s face.

    “My Uncle was an honorable man.” Coban said through his teeth, “Or so the King thought of him, enough to deem my family with titles.”

    ‘Maybe not so much arrogance, and misplaced honor’, Ramin thought to himself. ‘One man can be exceptional, that does not immediately bestow his family with the same ability.’ He sighed to himself.

    “Master Coban, no need to make a fuss. We all know Lord Breythine was an honorable man. Don’t we, Recruit Bandowin?” Ramin put heavy emphasis on the name Breythine.

    The Recruit took a few moments to soak in what was just said, and it seemingly dawned on him as to whom he was addressing here at the front gates of this budding town he was guarding.

    “Aye, uhr, uhh.” Kervi stammered “Lad, er, Sir. No meaning disrespect to your late Uncle. My mind wandered under the heat is all and—.”

    With a loud cough, Ramin cut Kervi off. Giving the Recruit a look of displeasure, the Page motioned with his eyes and head to continue with the checklist.

    “Who’s with ya today la-, Master Breythine” Kervi asked, misspeaking with the unexpectedness of a title again.

    It was about now that the rest of the caravan party arrived, with Rilliene pulling in the stubborn mules close to the cart wheels. Rilliene nodded at Page Forsythe and gave a questioning look towards Recruit Bandowin and Coban.

    “My mother, Mistress Elanor Breythine.” Coban extended an arm to his mother, motioning then to his sister, “My sister, the Lady Violette Breythine.” Both women looked sourly at the men in armor blocking their way.

    “Our Quartermaster, Rilliene Burton” Coban finished.

    “And your business here?” Recruit Bandowin continued.

    “Business here?” Elanor echoed the question, unimpressed. Quickly, Rilliene spoke up.

    “Trade. We carry trade goods. Grain, Cider, and Brandy.” Rilliene proclaimed.

    “And to worship.” Violette declared from atop her horse. “Tell me, guardsman, when was the last time you prayed?”

    Kervi blinked at the unexpected question. Ramin gave a small smile and slightly shook his head side to side.

    “And how long do you expect to sta—” Kervi was abruptly cut off

    “How long DO YOU expect to keep us here, guardsman?” Elanor asked in an accusatory tone.

    The unexpected raise in voice brought the attention of the Cadet Captain, who frowned from atop his tower watch post.

    “Peace,” Page Forsythe spoke out “Peace, Mistress. Some things have changed since your last visit here. As this town grows so will the priority of its security. Surely, you can appreciate such small demands of confidence.”

    It was Coban who now spoke interjecting with a tone of finality.

    “We will be here for the foreseeable future.” He barked, “Until the Celestials guide us further.” His eyes seemed to tear up slightly as he let his emotion get the best of him. “Will that be all, guardsmen?”

    Again, Coban wore fierce intensity unbefitting for his age and face. Ramin felt the burden of duty and the general disorder circling about this clan in front of him. He could see that burden wore heavily on the young Master.

    “Aye, Master Breythine, that will be all.” Recruit Bandowin responded, Ramin and himself moving aside for the caravan party to move forward. “For now.”

    • 299 posts
    May 3, 2019 12:49 PM PDT

    These are truly excellent. You have a keen sense for storytelling. Looking forward to more :)

    • 37 posts
    May 10, 2020 11:43 AM PDT

    Chapter 5 - Among Unequal’s

    Coban lead his horse by the reigns, walking alongside the canvas covered cart. Rilliene’s knees bobbed beside him as the wheels of the wagon jolted to and fro on the old cobblestones. Coban’s jaw ached as he realized he had been grinding his teeth since his family passed through the new, initial gateway of Barrow’s Hold a few minutes ago. He circled his neck in figure eights, attempting to get a good crack of relief.

    They all went on in silence, observing the new sights around them. The town had begun to change. It no longer felt underused, as it happened to feel when Coban was younger. He remembered playing with Violette, roaming through barren hereditary store houses belonging to various families that had one affiliation or another to the past mining processes this town had known throughout the generations.

    The twins had found kittens once in one of the abandoned store houses. The innkeeper, Master Brows, was thrilled to have them be hosted in the tavern abutment to his establishment.   Coban remembered feeding the table scraps to the young and desperate cats. After a few weeks all but one cat was adopted.

    Now, it still looked just as old, but the signs of life were abundantly unusual. The pounding of a smithy’s forge in the background was like a new heartbeat to the mining town. Louder and louder as they got closer to the center.

    Clang! There were two young children chasing each other in circles around muddy puddles in front of them. Clang! A flutter of pigeons as the boy and girl splashed off down a nearby ally to avoid the oncoming hoofs. Clang! Coban’s horse neighed and pulled at his grip on the reigns, causing him to again stumble slightly.

    Rilliene eyed Coban, witnessing the young man roll his neck and shoulders, attempting to relax his muscles strained with frustration. The farmhand gently jerked his wrists against the harness as the two mares nipped at each other’s manes. Rilliene snapped the harness more harshly a second time to get them to stop.

    Even after the many years he had worked for Elanor, Rilliene barley knew Coban. He did know his attitudes well enough and could tell that half of the sweat on Coban’s brow was from the heat of anger in addition to the midday’s sun.

    How does a person give advice about life, about their relationship with their own family, especially when they didn’t ask? Rilliene thought. The clouds far above parted and Rilliene felt the warmth of the Celestial’s upon his skin. He remembered his first days at the farm over a decade ago.

    “So. I’m a Quartermaster now, am I?” Rilliene began, wrapping the leather straps of the harness around his right wrist, he pulled at the horse’s bit to calm them down. He tried a half smile as he looked down at the young man.

    Coban looked back up at Rilliene, squinting in the sun overhead. He brought his hand above his eyes to see the farmhand’s expression. Catching Rilliene’s smirk he started to shake his head.

    “They were disrespectful.” Coban started to explain, “You heard how that guardsman started, how he expressed his disdain. If we are to have the title of nobles, then we must expect to be addressed by those titles.” His tone sounded pompous, trying out the word ‘nobles’ and ‘titles’ as they were new leather soles.

    Rilliene nodded his head as the party continued forward in silence. He heard Violette sneeze behind them. If he had heard her that clearly, then she must have heard him make his claims about them all being nobility. Coban’s cheeks flushed.

    The truth was, the family was not nobility and had no clue on how to act like nobility. Daniel Breythine was a man who earned that respect and was knighted for his many efforts working as a man of the Throne’s influence. His sister, Elanor, and by proxy her children, retained those titles by being next of kin. By tragic accident of Celestial fate, Coban became the master of the household.

    As the guardsman Kervi said ‘Farmers passing for nobles’.

    Coban’s neck tightened again remembering his behavior a few minutes ago at the gate and his face went hot once more. He rolled his shoulders trying to rid his mind of the trapped thoughts, reviewing the whole conversation’s details again.

    The young master had acted like a petulant child, so he told himself, not a head of a noble household. Worse, his family, following his lead, had acted equally shameful. He wondered if rumors of the family’s performance at the gates would reach their Aunt Koren.

    In a town this small, he knew it would. His bay horse snorted in seeming agreement. Coban sighed loudly.

    “Will you come pray with me later, Coban?” Violette asked, disrupting the young master’s circular thoughts.

    Coban scowled. Another tight knot seemed to form, this time in the back of his throat. He remembered the whole reason for this excursion, his transgressions against the teachings of Elder Semick. How he’d have to admit that the years of effort the Elder put into teaching him would be for naught.

    He looked up at the vine and lichen covered masonry of the chapel ahead of them.   The twin’s horses’ hooves clattered upon the cobblestone clearing marking the center of town. They each seemed to naturally drift towards the chapel as they traveled through the square. The shadow cast by the stone steeple seemed ominous.

    “Of course.” Coban weakly replied, “Later though, sister. Later. Work to be had, still.”

    “We’ll all go.” Elanor cooed in agreement. “Later, of course. We will unpack our personals when we get to Eristal’s Manor. Once done, Coban and Rill will deliver the trade goods to Master Brows. We’ll pay Elder Semick a visit if there is still daylight.”

    Rilliene raised an eyebrow at this, but quickly returned his face into a placid discomfort due to the heat and gossip. The farmhand rubbed sweat off his brow with a dirty coat sleeve. Surely the Mistress didn’t mean for him to pray as well. Did she? Rilliene tried not to frown.

    If Elanor intended Coban to deliver the goods to the innkeeper, this means he’d have to negotiate prices. Coban hadn’t made himself aware of this truth this until now. Who else, but himself? The young master’s upper back cracked as he tried to straighten himself out, arching his shoulders together.

    Was Coban supposed to be in charge here or was his mother leading? His mother never explained why anything was done why it was done. The family just did what needed to be done for the best of the homestead. A simple sentence would help clarify a lot of things, Coban thought to himself.

    The creaks of leather and oiled wheels alongside the cloven stomps of horseshoes on cobblestone were all that was heard as the party traveled onwards. They passed through the rest of the town square and up the slow incline to the areas mostly dedicated to family residences in abject silence.

    Cobblestone met mossy grass patches and dirt pathways leading to a variety of home styles. Coban took notice to the cluster of red-brown brick houses and their thatched rooves. One complete building, a foundation of another, and a third half built in a sort of horseshoe. A curious looking fellow with a fraying straw hat was securing hemp rope in methodical circles around the adjoining ends of fresh timber shaved at each end.

    Coban realized he was tying a top rail to a secure post. The man was making a fence around his homestead. He had not seen any such thing last time he was here. Man, nor buildings. It had only been but a quarter of a year. Hadn’t it? Was his family so grief stricken that they completely ignored what had been happening in Barrow’s Den?

    “Is… Isn’t this Aunt Koren’s land?” Violette asked. No one answered, except the jackass’ whinnying clamor as the caravan team exerted itself up the incline.

    The open hill country this side of the palisades were littered with soldier’s tents of various sizes and accommodations. Some of the tents were arranged in such a way that desired pathways of stomped grass became frequent dirt walkways. A sort of semi-permanence in an evolving township.

    Each dirt path lead to various small cookfire camps between three or four pitch tents. Some commonality in the chaos had larger tents with bright colored banners flapping outside their entrances signifying field officers.

    There were long tall green banners, stitched with a white feather in the middle. Some small square black banners with a centered golden shield, trimmed with golden frill. Other colors and markings the party couldn’t make out littered the landscape. Above all else, a red hawk upon a blue banner always was seen higher than the rest, no matter what other colors were seen flapping in the breeze.

    Hitching posts with varying degrees of craftsmanship staggered among the parts of eased incline besides the road on each side. Just as many posts were horses of varying pedigree, idling or chewing at feeding bags. A man dressed in mostly leather was loosely tying a twine around a stock horse’s midsection. The stranger nodded at Coban’s mother and sister. They nodded back, respectfully.

    Coban didn’t understand what he was seeing, and his stomach gurgled in indecision and travel anxiety.

    There were too many horses, he thought. No. There were more than there should be, not too many. A horse for every soldier. He also thought that the number of soldiers should upset him, too. He just didn’t know why all these thoughts upset him, and why each equally upset him.

    The clatter of quick hooves upon stone announced Violette’s advance as she drew her palfrey close to Coban’s gaited bay. Her horse bobbed silently next to Coban’s stride. The shoulders of the horses enclosed Coban, each slowing pace and falling back away from the earshot of Rilliene instinctively. Coban’s leather strip attached to his saddle’s fork strained slightly as he slowed his horse down.

    Coban looked upwards covering his eyes passed the sun midday sun up at Violette, who was waiting for his eye contact. Her eyes announced the inquiry into same questions he had. ‘What are we looking at, here?’ He brought his lips in, thinning his expression. His sister repeated his expression. Coban shook his head, slowly, and broke eye contact.

    Truthfully, the young master had no idea what was happening in front of him and was constantly anxious at all the change. Since his uncle’s death, he felt as if he was caught in the turnings of summer’s beach waves. Again, and again, he attempted to come up for breath, but the undertow brought him back down under the salty grasp of the sea.

    Violette understood in a way no one else could. The way only a person who spent time adjacent to each other in the crib would understand. Studying the differences in the lines of a furrowed brow, or a flicker of a memory correlation both shared exactly. Minute attention to changes in each other’s breathing embedded within their being since paired in the womb. All these small things communicate considerations that could end up speaking a shared infinity, all without anything said.

    The adolescent cleric brought a gloved palm to her stomach, understanding and sharing her brother’s anxiety. The young lady maintained her reigns and grip upon the saddle’s pommel, steadying herself as to not fall. Freeing her hand, she reached out and gripped her brother’s shoulder. After a few seconds she let go by pushing herself back upright upon the pommel of her ambling horse.

    They all walked into this dark forested part of their lives realizing they could fail and find themselves alone. All Violette hoped was that they remained together throughout. Hopefully, they all found their own inner Sanctum. Celestial’s be praised.

    Rilliene began leading the team off the roadway on to a section of flattened wagonway clearings. Dandelions sprouted in the unkempt grass between the trodden wagon wheel paths. They were a stone’s throw away from the Eristal’s estate. Two laborers were working around the steel fencing and decaying mason work that gated the main ground of the manor.

    The party meandered forward, one of the workmen stood up and stretched their back as they approached. His long-handled steel wool brush jutted out as he watched the wagon party with curiosity. The other continued their vigorous brushing of the fencing, unimpressed with the visitors’ parade.

    As they entourage passed through the threshold of Eristal’s estate, the wagon path turned onto dirt and gravel roadway. There were red maples crisscrossed on either side of the gravel path, their abundant shade welcoming. The trees stood out exceptionally well in this hilly grassland, their girth and size showing the longevity and wealth of the Eristal’s claim to this town.

    Elanor took a deep breath, loud enough for Violette and Coban to turn and look expectantly at their mother. The mistress smiled sadly, as this was the first time they had been back into town since the funeral precession. Her brother, their uncle, was buried not far from here in the Eristal family’s portion of the town’s generational graveyard. She tried to look reassuring to her children.

    The caretaker of the Breythine family recalled a stack of letters left unanswered atop the mantle. She breathed in deeply again. Elanor had killed an abundance of dangerous wild boar with nothing more than her quiver, her dagger and her wit. Remnant be damned, her husband and her took down an elderbear without a healer! Albeit a different world ago, she admitted to her wandering thoughts.

    Why, then, did the thought of speaking to her sister in law frighten her so? She allowed herself the truths of her wandering thought.   So Elanor let her worst fear subdue her mind.   What would happen if Koren refused them entry to the manor? What would Elanor do? Violette sneezed as they passed a blossoming lilac bush. It brought Elanor out of her trance.

    If Koren wouldn’t welcome them in, well, she’d take up rooms at the Rusty Pick, like the family did for generations before Daniel fell in love. Elanor straightened her back and nodded to herself. It was her wagon full of goods, after all. Mostly hers. Sans a few debts. Violette sneezed again. And again.

    Coban caught his sister’s bonnet as Elanor’s daughter fumbled with her side satchel to find her kerchief. The lilacs always made the girl teary eyed. Thankfully, Viollete’s interest in why that tree affected her so in her younger days was why she was almost an apprentice alchemist at this point in her life.

    Well, on parchment at least. The types of flower and root needed for most of the potions Violette had desired to make were no where near her homestead, some even a half a world away on Reignfall. Daniel always spoiled her with recipes she could never create.

    One of the mules whinnied spastically as if it were laughing at Violette, who was having a sneezing fit at this point. The lilacs. Always happened with the lilacs.

    As the party tried to coalesce, Elanor noticed that in the distance Koren was planting some estranged flowers into a windowsill planter near the estate’s outward kitchen windowsill.

    Elanor recognized her sister in law and watched her consider the Breythine party.

    “Here we go” Elanor whispered to herself.   “We’re here, children.” Elanor said.

    “Let’s hope your Aunt Koren is in a good mood.”

     

    • 53 posts
    May 10, 2020 8:44 PM PDT

    Woot! Where's this been?  You're late on your deadline! Good chapter.  Was worth waiting for it man!

    • 37 posts
    May 11, 2020 5:41 AM PDT

    benonal said:

    Woot! Where's this been?  You're late on your deadline! Good chapter.  Was worth waiting for it man!

    "Best laid plans of mice and men" - I had planned on having this story ready a year ago, I know it's late.  I see you've been keeping the hearth warm and welcoming for the community, though!  Thanks for the words of encouragement.

    I have this story almost entirely fleshed out, now - as well as the prequel story A Wizard's Request.  Summer months are my slowest time for work so I should be able to get this stuff out of rough drafts.

    • 53 posts
    May 11, 2020 6:46 AM PDT

    I know what you mean. Never enough time! Looking forward to it bud.

    • 37 posts
    May 23, 2020 1:17 PM PDT

    Teaser Chapter 5.25

    Inclinations

    Smell – It recognizes the smell. It smells them. It claws at a rock. The rock falls, and the rocks around it fall. It yells in glee. It digs.

    The three begin to dig at the breaking hole. More rock falls around them. They agree as they all smell them. They smell them, and they squeal. So, they dig.

    They squeal for her. They run around each other finding the best place to dig. So, they dig. The living bones lumber closer. All ignore her makings, ignore their makings, but they all obey. They all try to ignore their makings, all the time. The creatures lumber.  The creatures are unhappy. So, the three dig and dig.

    The closest creature that is not, paces. It is unhappy. So, they dig. It bites its brother’s diseased paw as it digs.

    The bones that pace watch them without eyes. So, they dig.   They squeal for her when the air changes as they dig.

    The bones pace. They smell them. They squeal. They dig.

    • 163 posts
    May 23, 2020 3:18 PM PDT

     

                         Nicely done.  

    • 37 posts
    May 30, 2020 9:19 AM PDT

    Chapter 6 -

    An Ink Blotter

    Edmond watched the caravan team as it exited the town square. He adjusted his stance while attempting to straighten his back. The fluid between the cartilage in his shoulder blades and spine made internal popping noises only he could hear.

    He breathed in heavily, sucking in his aging gut while squaring his chest and shoulders. Another pop occurred in his lower back, twice in succession. Encompassing his main hand in a fist behind his back, Edmond absent mindedly went to grip his right wrist with his left hand. The man pulled upon his wrists and stretched his back, neck and shoulders out further, with a few more satisfying pops here and there.

    The paladin settled his weight upon his heals, looking out the window staring at the town, standing at attention to no one in particular. Edmond Whitehead was a tall man, with thinning blonde hair parted to one side over a sun aged scalp. Time treated the man’s look well. The elaborate lines upon his face were like that of a border marking from a trusted cartographer’s quill. Scars and age lines alike made the sturdy Knight Esquire look distinguished.

    The commanding officer was not old, but he could not deny the feeling of fatigued aging. Many years wearing steel helmets took its toll on the man’s mind and hairline. If he were a vain man, he would have cared about the latter.

    However, he was confident that it was his cold, blue-eyed, stare that won over the barmaids’ hearts time and time again throughout his travels. That, and probably the rumors of his sword skills and coin purse. No, he had to concede, it was mostly his coin purse. Lorekeeper’s lie, it was always his coin purse. He hadn’t merited a woman, truthfully, in ages.

    When was the last time he was in a real, pitched, battle? Edmond wondered, attempting to distract himself. My, how I have come to loathe politicking.

    The Senior Chief idly looked out the third story window of the workshop he had chosen to claim as his home. There was a blacksmith’s clang of a hammer pounding rhythmically as it made its material for the cause. He remembered the work booklets on his desk.

    He remembered page three. Fifteen paces from the stone incline. Eight handspans deep. Half a pace wide. He remembered page five. Three men per morning to midday, four men midday to evening. Page seven. Constructing both sides at once requires fourteen per day. Sixteen geared on guard, requiring one captain leading shift. Page one. Mortar mixture as follows.

    His thoughts were cluttered. Releasing his gripped hands, he patted his sides to locate his tobacco pouch. He found it, having settled into the depths of a pocket hidden behind his tabard. He needed his pipe. Where was his pipe?

    He pivoted at mock attention in a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn, stomping a heel as he finished his intentional motions. His quartermaster stared at him from across the room with dark brown eyes, unimpressed. Edmond hadn’t a clue that the man was there. He felt slightly naked, hand on backside, clutching his pouch.  His thoughts were cluttered.

    Timothy brought up his left arm upholding a loose grip of inked parchment close to his ear, repetitively waving the documents sharply and accusingly towards Edmond, all while maintaining eye contact. The quartermaster pointed at the sheets with his hooked nose in a slight nod of his chin.

    “You have four items on the days’ agenda, my lord.” Timothy said, objectively. He fanned seven pages out upon the Knight Esquires desk table, letting go of his grip with the sound of the parchment’s slap. Edmond noticed his gilded pipe wobble upon his desk.

    They both were bored. It seemed Timothy wanted to kick up vacant drama.  The paladin decidedly took up his part in the play, then.

    “Four!” Edmond barked with feigned incredulity. “How in Festus’ folly will I ever complete their review before the sunset?”

    Edmond took slow meaningful marching steps, accenting his sarcastically professional demeanor. The floorboards moaned loudly with each step of the performance. A firm crack from the building settling could be heard from the second story below. The Senior Chief was not concerned, this building was well inspected and shored up before he made it a home.

    His quartermaster rolled his eyes at the lazy spectacle. Once reaching his desk, the Paladin extended a hand towards the parchment paper. Edmond hovered his hand above the top sheet and shot a side eyed grin at Timothy. He quickly pitched his hands towards his pipe and tinderbox instead of grabbing the parchment.

    “At least one of them will interest you,” Timothy reassured from beyond the clatter “Some of the provisions we requested have hit the southern bay.”

    “Huzah.” Edmond said sternly through his teeth that were gripped firmly on the bit.

    Simultaneously he made a flamboyant motion in farce celebration while striking his match alight. He puffed through his pipe, flicking the spent matchstick into the ashes of the center column’s fireplace. Smoke plumed in repetitive clouds, each spreading out evenly as they contacted the celling boards.

    Edmond offered his uncinched leaf pouch to his under officer. In response, the man slightly lifted and lowered his palms in sequence, bouncing his hands and spreading fingers. Tim crossed his arms upon his chest and switched which one of his ankles were in front of the other, tapping the toes of his weightless foot upon his boot. He shuffled his stance inside the doorjamb to find a comfortable spot more than once.

    If it were anyone else, the Senior Chief would have thought his quartermaster was anxious. Edmond did, however, recognize the anticipation in the man’s eyes.

    “No, thank you,” Timothy answered with a half grin “I planned on getting a plate after this. It would spoil my palette.”

    Timothy Jessup was a calm and calculating man. He was of average build and height, with a bushy head of brown wavy hair. The longer strands curled around his ears and at the base of his neck. He was leaning upon the door jam, weight planted on his shoulder. His figure was blocking most of the entrance to the Senior Chief’s accommodations from the stairwell’s hall. He wore a sword for no immediate reason, which gravity had taken a hold of awkwardly between his current lean and the floorboards.

    “Suit yourself.” Edmond said after observing his guildmate, returning the now cinched satchel into his hip pocket.

    He tossed the tinderbox back onto the desktop, landing with a thud. He then retrieved the topmost paper and began to review the document. His brow almost met his fading hairline, eyes widening as he read an updated itinerary of one his requisition requests.

    “Seems they hit hard waters outside the Vae. Claim to have taken on some survivors from a disabled vessel they encountered.” Timothy explained as Edmond read. “A disabled Skar vessel.”

    “Cargo held fine?” Edmond asked while still reading the report.

    “Cargo held fine.” Timothy said, agreeingly.

    The cargo they were speaking of were a few dozen casks of a dried flower leaf that could only be found in western Kingsreach. He had sponsored Koren Breythine in hosting an artisan alchemist’s vassalage. Combined with the rare mushrooms found in both the mineshafts and catacombs, this town would be able to stock a plethora of superior rejuvenation potions for quite some time. Meaning his soldiers would, too.

    The Senior Chief skimmed the rest of the itinerary that hadn’t happen yet, already having memorized the schedule. He returned his eyes to the top of the page. Edmond wanted to identify the name of the ship and its captain couriering a significant portion of his guild’s inventory safely across treacherous seas. The captain that didn’t fear the Skar and offered aid to the unknown.

    "And your judgement of the reports accuracy?" Edmond asked his quartermaster while speaking towards the parchment.

    "No reason to believe our chain of communication has been corrupted." Timothy responded to the paladin.

    “Captain Charles Lysander of the Sarah.” Edmond said in a tone like a gong’s vibration.

    Brushing aside the tinderbox and rolled up blueprints, he cluttered the outlining’s of his desktop. The paladin opened the topmost drawer on his left-hand side while using a free hand to find his chairback. He reached in and pulled out a quill box that was painted white, tossing it as his hand was an inch or so from the desk. The content’s ink bottles and quills rattled unhappily upon impact. A single peacock’s feather, oil cast, was painted on the top. The feather was shifting colors from green to gold to blue to purple as the light hit it from different angles.

    Edmond pulled up the tail of his bleached white tabard, stitched with the same style peacock feather upon his breast. He noisily dragged in his desk chair and settled into it, shuffling himself closer to his desk.

    “If you would be so kind” the Knight Esquire began, “when you next see our bookkeeper, let her know that I will be distributing the hero’s bounty to this Captain Lysander.” He gestured his hand above the parchment as if the paper was the man.

    Opening the box, Edmond pulled a silver tipped quill out. The feather was once again that of a golden green and blueish purple, a peacock’s feather, the strands fraying around the feigned eye. He uncapped an ink bottle and dipped his pen.

    “Also,” Edmond continued in a quick and excited tone, smoke billowing as he spoke “I am reimbursing the man’s per diem for the costs associated with accommodating the excess passengers.”

    The Senior Chief scratched his nose with his main hand’s pinky nail. A drip of ink from the quill tip landed upon the wooden desktop with the motion. Any closer to the man’s chest and he would have need to launder his tabard.

    “This event will surely increase our reputation with the D’shath worshipers. These acts of courage need to be encouraged. I’ll manifest a personal cost sheet that she can’t deny, instead of a verbal requisition request, in reaction to her compunction. I’ll circumvent her protests if she so desires to present them. I’ll need you to ask a scribe to make a copy of the updated itinerary.  For my records, of course.”

    “Of course.” Timothy replied warmly, “Do you want me to tell her first, or should I pester the scribe first?” The quartermaster asked, already knowing the answer.

    As Edmond scribbled, he leaned his head to peer across the room towards his bed makings. Beside the tightly tucked sheets and blanket, the nightstand held a small mechanical clock he was quite fond of. It was a gift from the master engineer he learned from. Its arms indicated it was just before one in the afternoon.

    “You know she’s going to bark at you for my orders already. She’ll scream I’ve given up our entire coffers to provide for the hero’s reward. Not like we can’t afford it, but she can’t stand red in her ledger.” Edmond said.

    “Best if you bother the scribe first. Tell her when you have that copy.” Edmond finished, answering the question directly.

    Edmond began to hum quietly to himself as he wrote, a slow and meaningful chant. It was a chant he kept dear from when he was still learning to make letters into words. It’s meager ticks of life-giving holy magic sparkled around the room, pulsating every few moments affecting everyone around him. The 'everyone' being just the solitary quartermaster, who smiled at his liege’s candor.

    “As you wish, m’Lord.” Timothy bowed his head and pushed his elbow out, exposing his palm upward to the ceiling. A perfect mockery of a bow juxtaposed with a feeling of absolute respect. The quartermaster switched his crossed arms upon returning them to his own bleached white tabard, stitched with a peacock’s feather.

    Edmond paid Timothy no mind. Tim had been with him for three campaigns now. The last offensive he ran, the previous training campaign, and now this. What was this? Was this another training campaign? He was recruiting and training soldiers of all kinds, after all. However, the skirmishes with the vermin and undead, not to mention the various diseased carrion beasts made things different. A minor battle campaign, then?

    He trained foot soldiers and had enough personnel for a half a company at this point. His ranks continued to grow. He gathered horses and had some cavalrymen. Those would train the foot soldiers on how to ride a horse in battle, and there would be dragoons under his command. He’d need a master smith if he wanted to provide warhorses for the Earl.

    Edmond felt it was a battle campaign without a true enemy to fight. The most dangerous kind for a company’s moral. The Paladin breathed in slowly upon his pipe and exhaled, sighing smoke through his nose.

    The man had finished his hymnal, blinking to himself.  His thoughts were cluttered.

    Senior Chief Edmond realized he wasn’t writing anything anymore. He refocused his attention and finished his letter to the captain of the Sarah, which extended his utmost thanks and gratitude. The quartermaster casually walked toward Edmond’s desk, reaching into his quill box. He removed a small candlestick, a green candle melted in. He placed it upon the desk.

    Timothy maneuvered his scabbard as he sat himself in a guest’s chair opposite of the Knight Paladin. He reached for Edmond’s tinderbox, bringing it into his lap as the Senior Chief’s quill scratched away. The quartermaster’s fingers searched around the tinder sticks, finally identifying a matchstick. He struck it upon the box’s side. After the sound of the sulfur’s flare, Timothy silently lit the candlestick and replaced the tinderbox to the desk, tossing the spent matchstick’s remains into the barren fireplace.

    Edmond reread what he had hastily wrote while he reached into the quill box, fumbling for his blotter. He blew absently at where some letters had pooled ink. The paladin nodded to himself as he began rocking the crescent wood block to blot the ink. Not a single misspelling or smudge. A good omen.

    Haphazardly tossing aside the blotter, he scribbled a signature and appended his titles below. On the opposite end of the parchment, he left a blank spot where a signature could be. With the skilledhand of a person who had long years writing letters, paralleled to his own titles he wrote another line of titles.

    He reached into his quill box once more, pulling out a brassbound apparatus, it’s cover secured by chains on all four sides. This was his own design; one he was quite proud of. He thumbed loose the brass latching’s and folded out a steadying handle. Upon the side of the molded brass work, there was a horizontal slit ending in an upwards cut at the end. It resembled an upper-case L put on its side. At the beginning of the slit was a protruding brass bolt.

    Edmond clutched the cover with his fingers and used his thumb to put pressure down, depressing the rounded brass bolt, dragging it towards the empty upward hook. He could feel and hear the tension push back as he persuaded the spring to secure the bolt into its secondary anchored place.

    While he dragged the bolt with his thumb, the brass lid’s bottom side spun about. A quarter moon of copper became apparent on the underside. It had a stenciled exposure of estranged markings.

    The Knight Paladin smiled at his ingenuity. He brought down the ink rocker into the bottom’s brass bordered inkpad, pushing gently back and forth to spread the ink appropriately. He then took the apparatus and repeated the motion upon the bottom of the parchment. His liege’s signature, Earl Savingail de Mantes, became apparent.

    He reapplied pressure to the anchored brass bolt, pushing the spring back down towards the horizontal split on the side of the brass apparatus.  The molding rotated quicker than an eye could catch as the spring sprang the stamp closed.  Edmond replaced the stamp head into the inkpad's basin. He took back up his blotter and cleaned up the two lines of signatures and titles.

    In a satisfied manner that only work well completed could maintain, Edmond folded the letter three times. He reached down to his left and opened the bottom most drawer. He pulled out an tan envelope and closed the drawer. Quickly, he began stuffing the folded parchment into letter.

    Edmond hardily pulled from his pipe to reignite the idle ambers, then placed his pipe upon the ashtray on top of his desk. He positioned the shank which was billowing with smoke upon the breaks in the raised ceramic edges. Flipping the letter over he retrieved his quill and used his calligraphy skills to write the captain’s title and surname in his best obscure font. He blotted his work once more and flipped the letter once again.

    Almost like coming out of a trance, he realized the next step of his ritual was already completed, the candle flickering in the randomness of midday breezes in front of him. His quartermaster lifted his hands from his lap and his eyebrows from his eyes. Pursing his lips under his boldly hooked nose, Timothy’s face and eyes were physically expressing the question of sorry.

    “Told ya so.” Tim said, mockingly. Edmond immediately thought that he must have put that itinerary on top of the stack of papers to watch him go through these efforts. What a fantastic jerk, if that were true. It had been the most exciting to happen in a moon cycle.

    With eyes like cleaned lake ice, Edmond stared at Timothy while grabbing his candlestick. He broke his stare, and watched as he tilted the candle, dripping its green wax upon the letter’s backing. It made a quiet tapping noise as it dripped.

    “What did I ever do to deserve you?” the Knight Paladin said to the Quartermaster, continuing his sarcastic streak.

    “You were incapable of keeping track of your own accords.” The quartermaster quickly jested in return as the Paladin replaced the candlestick onto his desk.

    Finalizing the entire escapade, Edmond reached one last time into his quill box and pulled out a gemmed signet stamp.  Checking the stamp’s emblem for imperfections, he then took his quill and carefully dripped a spot of ink onto the sigil.

    Edmond tapped the stamp down into the cooling green wax, the pressure spreading excess wax to the sides and sealing his letter. After a moment’s time, he brought up the stamp with a snapping noise, revealing a green blob of wax. Wax that was embossed in a circle at the seam of the letter’s opening presented a feather that included a blue inked circle at its end. It was a fantastic resemblance of that which was a peacock’s feather.

    He tossed the letter to the corner of the desk where the tinderbox was and picked up the next sheet of paper. The penmanship was of a poor man’s variety. Script from one who had no formal education. Edmond adjusted himself in his seat and brought his face closer to the paper, as if this would help him understand it better.

    “This one’s especially fun.” Timothy said, without seeming to express any kind of amusement while shifting which leg he had crossed over a knee.

    The lines upon Edmond’s furrowed forehead doubled as he attempted to reread the farmer’s letter. He was on his third attempt.

    “I’m right in reading this when I say this man has three ongoing grievances?” Edmond asked, releasing the paper and letting it float to the center of the desk. He brought both hands up covering his face. He let his fingers apply pressure to each side of the bridge of his nose. The Knight Paladin was squinting with closed eyes while rubbing his face.  Edmond sniffed, long and loudly.

    “It seems he wants eight stumps on his property burned or removed. He wants a sprout planted for every stump burned…” Timothy started

    “And sixteen skulls of vermintide.” Edmond finished bulldozing over the easy parts. “And, if I read this correctly, he expects this, let’s call it a bounty, for every eight trees felled on his land? A land that encompasses most of the south east corridor closest to us.” the Senior Chief finished flatly speaking through cupped hands covering his face.

    “Well,” the quartermaster started, shifting in his seat “I mean, he said there’s a den there. He says he kills them all the time, but they keep coming back.” Timothy paused and said, “Our men do need some hands-on training.”

    “Of course, they come back. They’re ratkin.” Edmond said dejectedly, leaning back into his creaking chair. He was rubbing his eyes, now.

    “Advise Squire Setella to conscript a party on a quest to tend to the farmer’s needs.” He said towards the ceiling, “I don’t care if he chooses to go himself or not, but if he does go, make sure he assigns schedule making for the mining operations to somebody who understands how balanced shifts work.” Edmond said, tiredly.

    Timothy chuckled and answered with a repetitive “Of course.”

    “Where in the Broken Maw is this guy going to store all these skulls?” the quartermaster asked and almost began to laugh.

    Edmond withdrew from rubbing his eyes, bringing down cheek and lip as he mushed his face in exasperation.

    “I really don’t care what the man has or hasn’t for inventory room.  Let him make a throne.” Announced the Knight Paladin, jutting out a single backhand with fingers outstretched as if he were throwing something at Timothy. The same hand quickly reached for the third parchment. He skimmed briefly and realized it was one of two and picked up the fourth parchment.

    “Without knowing what the horses cost the young Baron, he’s been doing us very well.” Timothy said in an approving tone.

    The Senior Chief lowered the letter slightly to meet eyes with his quartermaster.  He was pretty sure the man's tone of voice didn't match his opinion.

    The commanding officer tossed the informal letter and let it float to wherever it landed, which just so happened to eventually be the floor. He was focused on the fourth parchment that detailed the cost of the five horses he had just received on behalf of the Earl. It was near two hundred gold marks for the five. The columns listed more information including their individual cost, names, age, pedigree, and any cautions to be considered.

    “Have the scribe make two copies of this one. Let Marissa keep both copies and arrange that the original leaves with the Earl’s next collection request” Edmond said to Timothy, who nodded while collecting the invoice and the itinerary from their previous conversation.

    Edmond then grabbed the fifth parchment on his desk. It was another semi-formal letter, indicating that the sixth parchment was another invoice. These were from Thomas Brows. He put the letter down that he hadn’t read and handed the invoice to Timothy.

    “And copy this one, of course.” Edmond said, “Try to get her to pay this and the last at the same time, could you?” putting an emphasis on the and “You know the widow and the innkeeper spend time socially. I wouldn’t want their idle gossip claiming we perform favoritism.”

    “You’re asking me to ask a lot from her.” Timothy said, stern brown eyes meeting Edmond’s considering blue.

    “We’re good for it,” He said, nodding a chin towards the seventh parchment. Both knew who had written that final letter. It was a regular check in correspondence from the Earl Savingail, received on this same day every week for the better part of this season.

    Senior Chief, Knight Esquire, Edmond Whitehead took the letter from the innkeeper, Thomas Brows and the letter from Earl Savingail de Mantes, the keeper of the land, and placed them next to each other. They were centered on his desk. He readied himself to read both carefully.

    Quartermaster Jessup felt the mood change in the room and stood up beginning to perform a graceful exit. None of his motions nor the chair’s noises seemed to distract the Knight Esquire from the two papers in front of him.

    “It’s always strange reading these two people’s letters.” Edmond said out loud, to nobody.

    “Sir?” Timothy asked, reflexively.

    “One of them isn’t in charge here, and acts like they are. The other is in charge here, and acts like they aren’t.” Edmond finished, blowing out the candlestick flickering on his desk.

    “Sir?” Timothy spoke again, asking a different question in a lower tone.

    From outside the window, the church’s steeple let out a loud bong of a bell tone. Edmond idly checked his clock to see who’s sense of time was more accurate. His clock was a few minutes ahead. He wondered which was correct, his own knowledge of engineering or the elder cleric’s faith. His thoughts were cluttered.

    “If Marissa gives you grief about the invoices don’t let her rail you, just tell her to come see me.” Edmond said.

    “Sir.” Timothy said with a fervent finality. He left the room and began to climb down the stairs and building squeaked along with his motions.

    “Tim, can you do me a favor?” Edmond yelled to Timothy’s back.

    “Yah, Ed?” Timothy asked, stopping as he shouted back up the staircase. The banister moaned under the man’s grip.

    “Take out a few days’ pay from my petty coins. Next time you see the widow’s kin at the Pick, treat the Baron to whatever Master Brows has on his top shelves.” The Knight Paladin said, “Find out whatever you can about his venture once his tongue is loose enough.”

    “Of course, sir.” The quartermaster continued down the stairs.

    “I’ll be sure to wear that custom signet ring the Earl gave me.” Timothy yelled up the stairwell while walking down the second flight “It never fails to make me feel more charismatic!”

    Edmond couldn’t tell if the man was being sarcastic without being able to see his expression, considering the last half hour’s meeting. He found that he didn’t care if Tim was or wasn’t being sincere, at this moment.

    The paladin decided to pick up the letter from Thomas Brows first and began to read in earnest.


    This post was edited by techninja1337 at May 30, 2020 9:20 AM PDT
    • 37 posts
    June 5, 2020 6:38 PM PDT

    Teaser Chapter 6.25 –

    A Letter of Hopes

    Ed,

    Best wishes with the sunrise. Hope this paperwork doesn’t find you in too much trouble with Marissa. I must congratulate you on your growing numbers. Your men regularly, continuously and graciously visit our establishment for nourishment. The missus recently has received a new batch of exceptional local honey to add to her bread. I confess the rolls are fantastic, however, I prefer this honey in my tea.

    Despite the fruits of coin that the Earl brings this aged place, I’ve noticed how hard these laborers are working. Most your men, neither soldier nor laborer, carry fat on their muscle. Those that do are the ones that sweat out their pay in hangovers. If more people paid attention to my cork board I would be able to bring my costs down. I make no suggestions on which posting they should read, nor imply you should bespeak of it.

    Considering our last conversations, I had sent letters to the surrounding farms and persuaded them to prioritize their plantings. They returned words, eager to be supplying for the Earl’s cause this growing season. All were amenable after understanding the premium, except for one. Elanor Breythine did not respond. I understand she hasn’t responded to any letter since the winter solstice.

    >reverse side<

    The favored farm folk will let me know how their seedlings took in this season’s weather, as well as how their livestock fair. I expect them all to participate in the celebrations regarding the highest sol. I’m sure you’re aware that the town will be beginning to plan for the event after the second full moon. I portend you and your infantrymen will be joining. Let’s both hope we find no reasons that would justify an ale ration amongst the attendees.

    I have hired a band that hail from the Maidyn’s Clan to perform throughout the growing season. I plan a feast and festivities, as we always do here at the Rusty Pick. I recently posted a bulletin rewarding fifty silver marks for five field dressed and intact saiga. Could you believe I need several dozen carcasses if I plan to successfully feed you and your campaign alongside the traditional farm families?

    I have not seen you at the Pick in quite some time. If it suits you well, would you please accommodate me in your near future? I’d love to treat you to a honey roll alongside a full plate of food. Events have been changing so quickly here that I’d greatly benefit from picking your brain, if you’d allow it. Hope the best for you and yours, and that I will speak to you soon.

    Best regards,

    Thomas Brows

    P.S. Thought you’d find it noteworthy that the elder has told me that he expected extended company by a pilgrim from Khadassa. In the least, come visit me for tea so I can detail further.


    This post was edited by techninja1337 at June 5, 2020 6:39 PM PDT
    • 33 posts
    June 14, 2020 7:40 PM PDT

    Yes, I found this and I'm using it in your #PantheonProfile.  Great Stuff!

    • 37 posts
    June 26, 2020 4:04 PM PDT

    DraqAttack said:

    Yes, I found this and I'm using it in your #PantheonProfile.  Great Stuff!

     

    You the man, Draq, loved the profile you made.  I think I'm going to wait to post my next chapter until the new website launch...  As long as that isn't too far away!