"The Promised Land" - An Aquerra Campaign (Last Updated 1/23/04)


First Post
Below is the ad I put up at the Compleat Strategist (and up on the web including the Gamers Seeking Gamers forum here), and was able to find one player to join up with me, three friends and another acquaintence.


If home is where the heart is, then the village of Kendrick has not been home to its people for a long time. It is not only this tiny hamlet that suffers; all of the Principality of Rhondria has dealt with famine, banditry and oppressive taxes since they lost the war against the neighboring Kingdom of Menovia. Rhondrians have always had it the worst of all the people of the Little Kingdoms, occupying the harshest and most mountainous land of this conquered portion of Derome-Delem, the so-called Isle of Dwarves, and neighboring not only the Set-worshiping Menovians, but the borders of the undead infested land of Dralmohir. But, how much and for how long do the common people have to suffer in a place until they are no longer obligated to remain loyal to its government and crown? For some, it has been long enough.

But who will make the treacherous journey through dangerous and unknown lands to find a new site for the hamlet of Kendrick? It would have to be far enough from the borders of Rhondria to not have to worry about interference, but close enough to move an entire village, whether they be old, young or four-legged, to make the exodus. Who can be trusted to determine if the place is safe of monsters, has fertile soil, area for the flocks to graze and access to fresh water? The future of an entire village would rest on the shoulders of whosoever would take up this secret and harrowing task, and yet they would forever be remembered as those who brought the village of Kendrick from darkened Rhondria to the Promised Land…


The Promised Land – is a D&D 3E campaign for 4 to 6 characters of first level, set in the world of Aquerra, with emphasis on role-playing and story, still with plenty of dramatic tactical combat. For more information about Aquerra, check out:


And a bit about me: I have been friends with Nemmerle for a number of years now, and among the many wonderful times that we've shared and enjoyed, Aquerra was one. Possibly the greatest gift that he has ever given me is the trust to run autonomous campaigns within the world that has been near two decades in the creation. Though this story hour is my first, it marks the beginning of the fourth long-term Aquerra game that I've begun. I endeavor it to be my best yet. I will enjoy watching the stories unfold as I hope you do too. :D
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First Post
Session 1

Here begins Chapter One: Beginning, Again

Enjoy :)

session #1

Anulem, 21st of Syet– 564 H.E.

From the edge of the sparsely wooded hillside the woodsman squatted, surveying the procession on the black-stained earth below. The remains of several other funeral pyres marred the land and dandelions struggled to grow between them. It was obvious to him that yet another of the dwindling number of the town’s residents had died, and was to be sent to the duat. (1) The young man could see that more than five score (most of the hamlet’s citizens) were in attendance - the large turnout was customary for the loss of one of their own. Knowing this would delay his day, he stood and turned heading back from whence he came. Tyrus would have to see Gus a little later than expected.

The crackle of fire broke the silence of the early morning as John Fisher’s funeral pyre began to catch ablaze. Ephraim Little spoke his few indecipherable words and threw the final torch onto the funerary. With the moans of the newly-widowed Maryanne Fisher as a dirge, a slow procession of Kendrick’s citizens approached the blaze in an orderly line. Those who remembered the simple and honest man’s life offered words of praise in passing, or tokens of affection as they walked by. One of these was Wrenchard Valinson – a middle aged family man and the closest thing to nobility that Kendrick had to offer.

“Farewell my friend may the rivers of Osiris’ Realm run clear and bountiful for you.”

Turning to the widow he offered his condolences and she collapsed into the man’s caring embrace. As was custom in the small hamlet, many of the Kendrits did not undertake their normal responsibilities that day, rather they retired to the public house where much of the time would be passed in mourning and remembrance.

The pub quickly filled and an air of melancholy pervaded the room. The oft-maligned Jonas Fawkes pulled a bench toward the hearth and struck up an appropriate mournful tune. Sisters, Ali and Meg Hartigan served watered-down drinks, steeped herbs, and food, as Gus Sweeney the proprietor cooked away in the open kitchen behind the bar. Most everyone was present, by the time the widow and war hero arrived. (2)

Amidst the retelling of fond memories and childhood stories involving the deceased, another topic of conversation began to surface; one that was brought up more and more often these days. The miller, Mahlon had again begun to gripe about the decaying land. At first, others were reluctant to join in this taboo subject, yet they understood the sentiment. The threat of the Menovian presence, fallow land, a putrid river, tribute and taxation, the ever-present and encroaching menace of the walking dead all served to wear on the nerves of the man.

Sturgis Cronk, the steel-haired and bearded sheriff, eyed the miller warily knowing all too well that heated words and liquor could always lead to something more drastic. However, while most seemed to be paying attention to Mahlon, Black Adair (3) struggled to impress the apple of his eye, Hazel.

Jesse, the tanner, a sandy-haired, freckle-faced, young man nodded in agreement as the miller insisted something be done. Above the din, Wrenchard Valinson heard a noise, apparently Pollack Zigler, the cooper, heard it too. The thick-armed craftsman seemed to suddenly be struck by the thought that perhaps he had forgotten something and elbowed his way through the crowd towards the door. Jonas, spotting the ornery middle-aged cooper in his haste, quickly changed tunes attempting a comical accompaniment to the man’s heated walk. To his dismay the man’s stuttered and jerky movements made no such task easily achieved.
Ignoring this, Wrenchard rose from the table. Ordinarily the sound of hammering would not be peculiar, but on this day, at this time, it struck him as odd. Excusing himself from his wife, the widow, and their children, he proceeded outside and toward the south end of the hamlet – from whence the sound emanated.

Pinpointing the origin of the hammering was not hard for the canny man, who was surprised to find that strangers looked to be squatting in the Stilwell’s old home. Calling a greeting out to the young man who stooped by the side of the house, re-nailing a slipped shingle, he received no response. A travel worn, yet comely young woman, barely more than a girl, leaned on the open doorjamb surveying the handyman’s work. A tie-hobbled donkey attempted to graze on the weeds struggling for life in the brown square of earth that was the front yard. Again Wrenchard called out to no avail, as he stepped towards them. He was beginning to wonder if he was being ignored, he threw up his hand and waved to the girl while raising his voice, resolute to get their attention. She looked at Wrenchard in silence as the man with the hammer stood and turned. A hunch seemed to overtake the mangy haired, bushy eye-browed stranger, yet despite this he still stood somewhere between 13 and 14 hands high. (4) Whether intentionally or not, the man obstructed Wrenchard’s view of the girl.

“Hello,” he said, accepting Wrenchard’s extended hand.

“Welcome to Kendrick!” came the reply. “I am Wrenchard Valinson, and who might you be?”

“I am Jebediah Groomer,” stepping aside a little the slouched man gestured to the girl still leaning behind him. “And this is my sister, Constance. Well met.”

“What brings you to our small community?” queried the native.

“Well you see good sir, my sister and I have recently fled Menovia. We were but lowly serfs who worked indentured land, and until recently we could not enjoy our freedom. As we hurried to leave the kingdom we joined with a caravan headed north, not really caring what direction it led, as long as it was away from there. Unfortunately, one morn as we prepared to break camp, we were set upon by orcs. Slightly more foul than our old captors, and slightly less cruel, they quickly tore into us all, killing everyone they could find. I am not proud to admit that we hid amongst the dead that lie littered by the wagon. By the luck of Bes we were spared. For days we wandered, leaving the track and eventually found a river. Knowing civilizations to generally lay near running water we followed it upstream until eventually finding a bridge. Crossing it, we figured it’d be best to at least be on the opposite side of the Menovians, again we followed upstream. It must’ve been at least three days or more through the hills until we finally caught sight of the large sails of your mill. Noticing the abundance of abandoned homes, we chose this one, and, well, went to work fixing it up.”

“Hunh,” grunted Wrenchard. He was obviously none too surprised by the man’s tale. Waiting for a response, Jebediah could see that his new neighbor seemed to still be taking this all in.

Finally, Wrenchard answered, “Well, consider me the welcoming committee. But this story of yours just won’t do. We may have to lie a little, and tell people something else. You see, folks around these parts ain’t takin’ too kindly to any Menovians.”

Wrenchard noticed now that Constance had slowly closed in on the two men while they were talking. Turning to acknowledge her presence as well as include her in what he was about to say, he began again. “I’ve got an idea.”

Jebediah turned to his sister, interrupting. “Constance, though I hate to, we may have to tell a lie,” he intoned.

“Okay, Jebediah,” came her almost derisive reply.

Unphased, Wrenchard continued, “You are both from Black River Bridge. Now that’s a small town just a few days north of here on the western bank of Black River. Here let’s walk as I talk.”

He motioned forward. “Let’s go to the pub, first round of drinks are on me.” (5)

The two pilgrims followed as Wrenchard continued on, “Where was I, ah yes, Black River Bridge, so you’ll need to know a bit about it. I am something of a worldly man y’know…”

Meanwhile, the miller had succeeded in achieving what the sheriff hoped he wouldn’t. Just being generally ornery and succumbing to a bit of the root tonic, his zeal was beginning to get the best of him. Arriving at the back door as always, Tyrus greeted Gus and came inside, checking his blades and bow by the inside corner of the doorway. As Gus continued to monitor a small crock-pot that hung in the fire, the young man hung his catch on the usual hooks that were now all empty and deposited two clay jugs of root tonic on the chopping block. The young woodsman and his uncle brewed the moonshine.

“Those guinea fowl look nice, Tyrus,” the portly, ruddy-faced barman said, with a big smile. He seemed to always be smiling.

“Thanks. Only three today, sorry.” Tyrus noticed the raised voices from the common room. “What’s goin’ on out there?”

“Well, as I’m sure you know, or’ve heard, John Fisher passed on yesterday. You know how it goes.” Knowing the boy’s disinterest in the town’s affairs, Gus quickly turned to business. “Now, what can I getcha fer those? What d’ya need?”

Tyrus caught the smell of some of Gus’ skillet potatoes, “Well how about we start with a big plate of food. I’m starved, huntin’s getting to be more work. And then the usual, whatever you can spare.” He laid down the recycled burlap sack they used to transport their bartered goods.

Gus quickly moved to mound a plate with food. Potatoes, roast leg of venison and an assortment of root vegetables were piled up beneath some oatbread. Taking the plate, Tyrus asked for some water, knowing full well the effects of his uncle’s homebrew.

“No root tonic Tyrus?” Gus joked.

“You know I don’t touch the stuff. Mind you water that now.”

“Yeah, I know”

Tyrus gladly accepted the fare and headed towards the back of the bar, and thusly the common room. “Mind if I say hello to the girls, Gus?”


Taking his plate and nodding a greeting to the still pretty, while busy, Ali and Meg, Tyrus made his way past them, to the end of the bar. Half sitting, half standing with his back to the wall, the hearth and gangly Jonas on the left, he dug in. Tyrus couldn’t help, as everyone else here, but listen in on the hubbub. He noticed also that not too far away, Motie, a small shifty-eyed man, whose short bowl-cropped black hair was pasted to his forehead, also seemed keen on paying special attention to the trend of the dialogue. Perhaps the only other member of the community who lived a private life, Motie, was generally disliked, causing even Tyrus to get goose-bumps.

Just as the debate seemed to be reaching a crux, Wrenchard returned with his new guests. All fell silent as the newcomers suffered myriad eyes to fall upon them - surveying them, judging them. They felt the discomfort of attending a party at which they were not invited. A favorable verdict was rapidly reached. Wrenchard’s presence did much to alleviate suspicions.

Sturgis, interested in the strangers, stood and moved to intercept them on the way to the Valinsons’ table. Though diminished somewhat, Mahlon again resumed his oral exasperation. Sturgis was introduced to the Groomers and Wrenchard quickly began an explanation of their story.

Mentioning that they’d have to discuss their occupation of the Stilwell home at length, some later time, the sheriff cut his interrogation short, taking his leave to return to the vicinity of the rabble-rousers. Wrenchard curious as to Mr. Cronk’s parting, followed close behind, beginning to get the gist of the conversation. Avoiding more awkwardness by sitting down, Jebediah led his sister to the further end of the bar, closest to Tyrus. Meg, the shorter and more full-figured of the Hartigan’s, acknowledged their arrival with a look before hustling further down the wood-bar’s span to service priority patrons. Soon she reappeared, wiping her soiled hands on her smock. Jebediah could see that beneath the sweat beaded on her brow and the thin film of grime on her skin she was a young attractive woman full of life, most unlike anything else about this place that he’d yet witnessed.

“What can I getcha?” she prompted, cocking an ear while still in motion.

“A Silgar spirits and a rouge wine, if you please,” he replied.

Stopping, she stared at him blankly lost in thought for a second before repeating his request aloud; doing so as if for her sake as much as his.

“A wine and spirits.” She hurried off.

Briefly they waited, trying to take in all the sights. Jebediah fingering his laden money pouch before the barmaid returned with a cloudy brown liquid occupying an unadorned wooden goblet and a nostril stinging odorless tawny lucent liquid in a similarly styled cup. She bustled off. Jebediah passed the goblet to his fair haired sister, Constance. He eyed it curiously, before studying his own beverage.

A dramatic strum of strings carried over the clamor as the Fawkes boy now invited his elder to the impromptu forum.

“C’mon up here, Mr. Miller,” he invited, beckoning as he stood on his stool.

Isaiah Fawkes, the would-be musician’s adoptive father slapped his own head in patient incredulity. The miller earnestly made his way through the parting crowd to where Jonas had provided him a stage. Sturgis settled in, silently hoping that his deputy Harden Speck, who was on militia duty was not too far away. In a commanding tone, Mahlon grasped the attention of everyone in the common room.

“Something must be done!” Many in the crowd nodded.

“John Fisher got it easy. He doesn’t have to wait here like the rest of us, waitin’ to die.”

This didn’t seem to capture much sympathy, but no one dared interject knowing the penchant for the miller to have a hot temper since his son’s death, especially now that he was full of the morning’s worth of root tonic. However, the widow Fisher did let out a terrible sobbing, and was quickly accompanied out by Kelize Valinson, Bette Kerswill, and Ida Cubitt. Their children all followed.

“How long can we last? How long can we endure fallow lands, putrid waters, waning food supplies, the Menovian presence, and the threat of the walking dead? The prince has forgotten us. (6) The no-good aristocracy doesn’t care. How long must we suffer?”

The crowd stirred, “Yeah.”

The miller could now feel that the crowd was with him. “Well, I, for one, say we do something!”

There was a glimmer in Wrenchard’s eye as he moved through the crowd towards the hearth. Finding his cue, with delight Jonas filled in fitting gaps with the dramatic plunk of his lute strings. Suggestions emanated from the townsfolk, bordering on debate.

“We’ll send someone to Blacktop!”

“I’ll leave!”

“We should kill those Menovians!”

“Let’s go to Scales!”

“What about Gothanius?”

The miller grabbed at the most appealing, “I’m sick of the Menovians. What do we owe them? What do they provide us? I say, next time they come we give ‘em somethin’ else from Kendrick!”

Noticing the war hero close at hand, Mahlon looked to seal the deal and invited Wrenchard to stand beside him. “What say you, Wrenchard, will you take up arms against the Menovians?”

Avoiding the man’s clasping hand that reached for his shoulder, Jonas found himself flanked between his two elders. “I’m opposed to the taking of arms” he interrupted, thrusting his arm into the air.

Wrenchard, taken aback, looked down upon the lad. “Aren’t you in the militia?”

“So?” came the reply, which was quickly stifled as the crowd burst into laughter and much of the building tension was swept from the room. Sturgis smiled and shot a wink at the younger Fawkes, though this did little to mitigate the wound to his pride.

Minutes later Wrenchard began, “Mahlon has a point.” The crowd being drawn in again, nodded. The miller beamed. “We can’t just do nothing, something should be done. It’s been nearly half a season since we’ve had any contact with the outside world. We need to take matters into our own hands.” The crowd hung on the war-hero’s words. Mahlon wrung his hands in anticipation. “Perhaps it is time for us to carve out our own land. We don’t know what lies beyond the Little Kingdoms, but there we might be able to found our own land.”

“I know of towns with dwarves and stuff,” proffered the lutist.

“I propose that we send a small group to scout out a more hospitable land,” continued Valinson.

With this, the quiet woodsman lay down his fork and walked up to the front of the crowd. For the first time ever, he addressed the collective community.

“I am Tyrus. I know many more of you than you do me. I’ll guide you wherever you need to go.”

Wrenchard nodded approvingly at the young stocky man who was built like the hills he prowled. He returned to eating as another argument ensued about the status of the Alderman.

“He’s dead!” the cynics offered.

“No, he’s left us all here to die!” suggested the pessimistic.

“He’s rotting in the prince’s dungeons!” another claimed.

It was minutes before Wrenchard could once again recapture their attention. Avoiding the subject, he continued, “I would be willing to leave my family’s land; to abandon it, not for my own good, but for the whole town.” (7)

Jebediah and Constance noticed that the pot-bellied loner, Motie, was keenly interested in every detail of this conversation. While surveying the room for replies to Wrenchard’s admission, Jonas’ own wandering eye stopped on the young female pilgrim. Curious as to whom she could find so much more appealing than he, he followed her gaze to land upon the button-nosed Motie. He didn’t like this one bit, and neither did the sheriff it seemed - who was ever-observant.

“Y’know this kinda talk is seditious. It puts not only you in jeopardy, but this whole town. Now I’m not sayin’ that you can’t do somethin’, or that if you were I could stop ya. But we’re forgettable alright. So much so that this oft-overlooked hamlet could easily become just the sort of example that the Menovians could use to set a precedent amongst the rest of Rhondria.” The sheriff’s words commanded respect and attention from everyone.

Well, almost everyone, while the sheriff spoke Jonas stood, whispering in Wrenchard’s ear. “We should do this in secret.” With that he blurted out after the sheriff, “You’re right. This is all a joke. All just a joke, see?”

He broke into song and strummed his lute some more, playing a joyous tune. A bit confused, but feeling to some degree that a resolution had been made, people began to return home or dance the local jigs. Jebediah and Constance joined in the revelry, dancing in unison as their tandem steps carried them in long loping circular strides around the outside of the high-steppers.

Mr. Valinson made the rounds in the pub, stopping to talk to several individuals the rest of that afternoon. One among them was the ‘Black’ Adair, the sharecropper who had recently begun as apprentice to Wrenchard. Following in the tradition of which he had come to learn his craft, Wrenchard had now taken to training the boy in the making and writing of maps as well as surveying the land. Adair was bright, and Wrenchard would value his point of view at the dinner he decided that he must now plan for tonight. Adair was an average shepherd boy predestined for an average Kendrit life. He left with Hazel, so charmed by her that he hardly noticed when he walked into Motie, bumping the smaller man aside. Before proceeding into the chill air and darkening sky of late fall, Tyrus, Sturgis, Jonas, Constance, and Jebediah had all been invited as well.


Wrenchard returned home with what he hoped was more than enough time to warn his house attendants of the large dinner party. Gravis and Noelle, seemed annoyed, but did their best to comply.

The few hours before dinner passed quickly and Tyrus made a point of arriving early. Gravis answered the door, “Good evening young sir” and welcomed the youthful woodsman into the foyer. Taking the freshly killed rabbit offered by the hunter as a gift, he suggested the man leave his arms in the assembly hall. Doing so, Tyrus was shown into the comfortable dining area, dominated by a large long table. A warm fire made the room seem very comfortable and inviting. Wrenchard greeted the early arrival.

“Welcome Tyrus, I’m glad you could join us.”

“The young master has brought a gift sir.” Gravis informed Wrenchard holding the offering at arm’s length, before turning to leave by yet another door.

“Thank you, Tyrus.”

Minutes later, as Tyrus, Wrenchard, Kelize, Maryanne, and the kids John Jr., Annabelle and Dian made niceties, the majority remaining guests arrived. The Groomers, who coincidentally had chosen to adopt a house adjacent to the Valinson’s, found it a short walk to his front door where they met the black-haired Adair. Having arrived moments before, the Groomers allowed his rap on the solid pine door to suffice for them as well.

“Hello, I’m Adair,” the third eldest son of the Bannon home introduced himself, noticing the darkened beauty of the pilgrim girl even in the low-light conditions.

“Jebediah Groomer, and my sister Constance.“ She looked as if to curtsy, but kind of stalled. Adair could see that she had just saved herself from awkwardly stumbling. Before he could react, they all turned hearing the approach of people from behind them.

“Hello, Adair, Jebediah.” called the squinty, blue-eyed sheriff, signaling their approach.

“Hello, Mr. Cronk” answered Adair.

Adair could see that Sturgis was being accompanied by two other individuals, neither of whom was at the pub at any point earlier in the day. As a result, neither Jebediah nor Constance recognized either of the men. The younger was a tall man standing over six feet high adorned in iron studded leather accoutrements that had seen much wear. He wore a scabbarded short sword and carried an oiled-smooth club bound with rings of iron. It was hard to make out the features of the deputy’s face below his partial faced cap helm and above his large rectangular wooden shield. To the sheriff’s left paced a much different individual. An unarmed, unarmored, older man of average height that wore naught more than comfortable amber-brown robes below the immense golden ankh draped from a braided leather thong about his neck. His clean-shaven head identified him as devoted to Ra, his face was cracked like water-starved earth. Jebediah accepted his well-calloused hand as they reached the doorway as well.

“Hello Ephraim. Hello Harden,” Adair acknowledged.

Gravis opened the door and welcomed the visitors inside. Proceeding into the foyer, they made introductions all around, exchanging handshakes. With familiarity, the sheriff and his deputy laid up their arms, and Ephraim entered the dining room. His annoyance overlooked, Gravis quickly shuffled off to the kitchen to inform Noelle of two additional guests.

“Wrenchard, how are you?” Sturgis asked with a slight nod to the widow Fisher. “I hope you don’t mind but I took the liberty of inviting Harden and Ephraim. I’m sure you would have, had they been around earlier.”

Politically savvy Wrenchard answered with a big smile, “Of course, thank you! Ephraim, Harden, welcome!” He moved to shake their hands.

Gravis laid in two unplanned place settings as everyone was finding seats to their liking. One still lay unspoken for, as idle chit-chat was offered and passed around the table. Ephraim chose a seat next to Maryanne and Kelize doing his best to console the widow in her time of grief. Wrenchard and Adair spoke with Sturgis, as Tyrus, unaccustomed to such formal gatherings listened in. And Harden took the opportunity to quiz Jebediah and Constance of the details of their tale. Constance could now see that Harden was a striking young man, presumably in his early twenties with a hard-lined jaw, well-defined high cheekbones and softly dimpled cheeks, which nicely accented his smile.

“So I hear that you’ve come from Black River Bridge?” he asked rhetorically. “And I assume you came by way of Split Mountain Bridge. (8) How long did it take you?”

“A few days” replied Jebediah guardedly.

“And why’d you come here?” queried Harden raising an eyebrow.

But just then, all heads turned as the sound of heavy knocking carried in from the foyer hall.


In the meanwhile, Jonas too had returned home to freshen up. Having some spare time before dinner he figured that he could squeeze in some juggling practice. Grabbing three torches, flint and steel he quickly made his way through the small house.

“Where’re ya off to boy?” asked his father.

“Militia duty, Pop” he replied and scuttled out the door past Isaiah’s judging eye.

Once outside and a good distance from the house, Jonas lit up his torches and began to work. After diligently practicing for the better part of an hour and singed forearms as proof, the lanky kid figured he had just enough time to squeeze in a nap before dinner. It would be a long night. Moseying over to their family’s barn he found his regular comfortable pallet of straw and hay and dozed off.

Some time later, Jonas awoke with a start and the all too familiar feeling of having overslept. Doing his best to straighten his perpetually disheveled clothes and flatten his constantly tousled hair, he broke into a run headed for home. He threw open the door and began to scurry about frantically.

“What’s the matter boy?” his father asked. Evidently he’d been shirking his duties again.

“Goin’ to dinner, Pop.”

“Oh yeah, where?” The elder Fawkes was surprised by the response.

“Mr. Valinson’s,” the lad replied curtly as he pulled a belt from atop a cupboard.

“Oh really….” Isaiah was incredulous. “Now listen son, you’re getting’ older now, in fact, you’re a grown man, and, well, I like to think I done a good job a rearin’ ya.”

“Ya have, Pop,” the boy interrupted, while ducking to look for something under a table.

Exasperated, Isaiah continued, “Just don’t lie to me son. Please don’t lie!”

“Okay. Can you pass me my sack of juggling balls?”

Isaiah held out the burdened burlap bundle, Jonas snatched it and was off. He called back through the open door and Isaiah heard the chill night air whisper, “Love ya, Pop.”


Being shown through the foyer by a somewhat irritated Gravis, Jonas was a bit surprised to see that everyone else had clearly arrived early, gotten comfortable and already finished most of their mulled-wine.

“Thanks for invitin’ me Mr. Valinson.”

“Just call me Wrenchard, Jonas,” the host half-stood, half-sat at the head of the table.

Jonas took up the only remaining empty seat at the end of the table next to Harden, across from the Groomers. He shot Constance a wink. No sooner had he done so when the meal arrived. A fairly generous display of roast fowl, assorted root vegetables, braised cabbages and oatbread was laid before the guests. Forgetting his earlier topic, Harden was quick to bring up the subject that was on everyone’s mind.

“Well, Mr. Valinson, I hear that you’d like to lead an expedition. I’d be curious to hear more about the idea,” he queried.

This breach of etiquette apparently annoyed Mrs. Valinson, as her face contorted in reply. She forced herself to choke down a bit more wine and distractedly turned to Ephraim and Maryanne, eagerly striking up idle chatter. Constance too seemed a bit confused by Harden’s prompting, and Wrenchard finished swallowing his mouthful before speaking.

“Well, yes, Harden I do, but in due time. We’ll discuss it all at length in due time.”

With that he ended the issue and the rest of the meal passed pleasantly. After the dinner plates had been cleared, drinks refilled and bread pudding served, a fine nectar was brought for all to enjoy. The transparent ochre hued liquor sloshed viscously in the funny bowl-shaped stemware. Tyrus eyed his warily and surveyed the tables’ reactions.

Jonas seemed just as curious as he asked, “What is this Mr…, Wrenchard?”

“Brandy, Jonas.”

Everyone else seemed delighted including Jebediah who Tyrus could see cupped the bowl of the glass in the cradle of his palm and fingers, slightly swirling its contents in a circular motion. As Tyrus opened his mouth to speak he was interrupted.

“What are you doing, Jebediah?” Constance enunciated.

Drawing attention to her brother, he was obviously embarrassed. Pulling his nose from the vessel’s depths, he replied.

“Uh, nothing…?” He quaffed the entirety of the container.

The women were now dismissed and the men adjourned to Wrenchard’s study. The eight of them were a bit crowded in the otherwise comfortable room. Half sat and half stood amid the sheaves of parchment, map-adorned walls, bottles of ink, quills, coal markers, and funny looking instruments; one of which Jonas thumbed casually, causing it to rock in its wooden cradle.

“Now as you inquired, Harden, I do indeed think that something should be done as Mahlon suggested earlier today. That’s why I’ve invited you all here tonight. You all appear to be just as interested or may offer some insight into the undertaking of such an endeavor. As Jonas suggested though, we should keep this quiet. Sturgis may be right when he says that such talk is seditious and dangerous. Word of this getting out may cause problems for us or the town.”

“I don’t pretend to know the law,” admitted the sheriff. “Especially under Menovian rule, but I imagine that they wouldn’t take too kindly to it is all. Besides, how would you even move a town? You can’t move a town.”

“No you can’t move a town, but you can move its people,” suggested Wrenchard.

“Besides” offered Jonas “it’s ridiculous to say that all Menovians are evil. It’s not like they’re dwarves.”

“No, but they do worship the god of power. They build foul shrines to him,” reported Jebediah with contempt. “They are even building a temple to honor the snake-headed one in Black Top.”

“A temple to the serpent god on Rhondrian soil? Unbelievable!” exclaimed Ephraim.

“But true,” Wrenchard confirmed.

Excitedly, Jonas grew louder, as if coming from deep thought and not having heard any of the recent conversation. “If we’re gonna keep this secret we’ll need a cover story!”

No one listened to him.

Wrenchard rifled about his desk and produced a small rolled parchment. Untying the ribbon used to keep it compact, he unfurled the map and spread it flat across the wooden desk. Securing it down with stones, he beckoned everyone around and began to point out landmarks. They surveyed the lands of Dralmohir, discussed the Black River, argued over directions, kingdoms, politics, and potential destinations. Ultimately, a general plan was accepted. A group was to head north along the river in John Fisher’s now unused canoes, hit shore before Black River Bridge and take a land route through the hills westward toward Black Top and then continue in that direction into Gothanius.

Gravis entered the study and more brandy was poured.

Talk turned now to whom and how many should comprise such a group, how many it should be. Tyrus again volunteered his services, as Wrenchard declared that he’d help lead the group. Adair, though quiet, kept it no secret that he was interested. Briefly, Harden considered it as well, but was quickly reminded of other duties by both the sheriff and the priest. Jebediah volunteered his cooperation, and that of his sister.

“I don’t think that a woman’s place is on the road, just like I don’t think a woman’s place is in the study,” offered Wrenchard. “Perhaps your sister could stay here and help work my lands, or help my wife about the house.”

“No,” replied Jebediah curtly, and the matter was left at that.

Having heard enough, Tyrus got up to leave.

“You’re going? We still haven’t talked about the cover story” Jonas said.

Tyrus, unconcerned, replied, “I’m not literate.”

Jonas, ordinarily not at a loss for words, paused and smirked.

Tyrus continued, “I don’t know anything about taxes, laws, Menovians or anything like that. I know about the woods and those hills.”

Harden also made to go. Sturgis and Ephraim feeling the effects of the late hour coupled with the alcohol did too make ready to go. As farewells and handshakes were exchanged, Ephraim pulled Wrenchard out into the hall with him for a bit of privacy.

“Wrenchard, you say that the Groomers are new to town today. Are they acquaintances of yours? Do you know them?”

“No,” Wrenchard didn’t quite know where this was going.

“And you trust them? It seems a bit odd to me that they happen upon our sleepy little hamlet today, this major idea comes to fruition today, and they are all too willing to aid in our endeavors today. Hadn’t they just come here to take up residence? Fixing a house in disrepair as if to stay? Why leave now?”

Wrenchard had no answer, but the cleric could see that the war hero was now in thought. Having achieved what he’d desired, he bade Wrenchard pay him a visit before going anywhere, and took his leave. The host returned to the study as the sheriff and his deputy were wrapping up their good evenings.

“We hope to see you on the breach tonight, Jonas,” said Harden to the militia man. “Noticed you’ve been absent lately.”

Jonas flushed a little, speechless, and Wrenchard turned again to see out the two lawmen.

Returning to his guests, he found the room much more spacious now, and comfortable.

“We have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” remarked Jebediah.

Wrenchard could only speculate as to what they’d been discussing. The musician was obviously still stand offish about undertaking this quest.

“I’ll only go if my father says that I can.”

“Jonas, you’re a grown man, you can make your own decisions,” replied Adair.

“Yeah I know but my father needs me, I mean, he can’t tend our crops without me.”

“You said yourself that someone should chronicle our exploits,” continued Adair. “I can think of no one more suitable than you.”

Jonas balked. “We’re not rich like Mr. Valinson, my father needs me.”

“Perhaps your father could come help work my land, my wife will be needing help with me gone.”

“But we have our own land, he just needs me to work it.”

Jebediah had a thought. “Could your father use a donkey? Perhaps that could do to make up for his loss if you join us.”

“An ass for an ass!” Tyrus interjected, highly amused.

“At least I don’t smell like one!” Jonas retorted.

“Listen we can’t tell anyone about what we’re planning to do. The less people that know the better,” said Wrenchard, bringing the conversation back to the matter at hand.

“Well, I have to ask my dad, or at least tell him,” Jonas whined.

“What about Motie?” asked Tyrus, leaning on the desk. “I saw him listening in at the pub. I don’t know what he heard, or knows, or suspects.”

“Ah, I’m tired of Motie,” sighed Wrenchard.

“Well, what do you want to do about Motie?” whispered Tyrus, leaning in closer, a sinister glint beginning to shine in his eye.

Jonas, taken aback, protested, “I’m not sure I like where this conversation is going.”

“Maybe you should leave the room,” suggested Tyrus, a sardonic smile began to work its way across his face.

“Nothing,” Wrenchard said. “We can’t touch him. But he’s not to be trusted.”

Another brief debate began in which the facts, circumstance, and rumor about the dubiously reputed Menovian sympathizer were scrutinized. In the end, it was decided that nothing could be done to or about him. Even if he were the worst of what everyone suspected him to be, Motie would never go unnoticed.

A cover story was developed (with Jonas’ help). The group decided to say that Wrenchard had received a large surveying job requiring the assistance of the other conspirators. A pact was made swearing them all to secrecy except where absolutely necessary. With that everyone seemed to be winding down, the end of the evening drawing nigh. They had talked into the wee hours of the morn and plans for the morrow were briefly discussed. It was agreed that Jonas and Jebediah would examine the canoes in the morning. They also needed to start hunting, gathering, and preserving food supplies. Adair and Tyrus would concern themselves with this. As everyone rose to leave, Jonas cocked his head slightly toward the shuttered window, hushing the conspirators with a finger to his lips.

“Do you hear that?” he asked. “It sounds like a cow being choked to death.”

“I guess that I am not the only one light-headed from the brandy,” Jebediah chuckled.

“No!” Jonas admonished. Not to be made the fool, he lunged to the window and cast open the shutters. They could all hear it now. A terrible guttural drawn-out moan bellowed in with the cold night breeze. Jonas dove headlong out the window in an attempt to clear the bush below. He landed most ungracefully, scuffing his face, shoulders, and elbows. Everyone else quickly moved through the house. Tyrus was the first to reach his weapons and the front door. He was followed closely by Adair, who accepted the bow and quiver passed to him. The black-haired young man could see a look of mingled anticipation and animosity that lay just beneath the hunter’s calm countenance.

Wrenchard ducked into the sitting room and made straight for the fireplace. He called back to Jebediah who was visibly confused.

“Jebediah, perhaps you should retrieve your own blade. I think you are about to be introduced to Kendrick.”

Pulling his own quiver down from the mantle place, Wrenchard hurried back to the hall ushering the Groomer out. Wrenchard dashed off in the direction of the wailing, hard on the heels of the silhouettes he assumed to be his pupil and the woodsman. A soiled Jonas caught up to the war hero and within minutes they found themselves at the southeastern-most edge of town. Where the breach (9) met the cow byres marking the town’s outermost perimeter, Tyrus slowed his sprint. He cautiously approached the animal shelter from whence the offending sound emanated. Further down the wooden palisade, Adair could barely distinguish the sight of figures holding aloft torches, thrusting spears down into the trench below. The waning moon provided little light and Tyrus squinted into the dark byre. It appeared as if indeed a man squatted over the form of a downed cow, throttling it. Both long and short blades drawn, he moved forward to confirm his suspicion. Without pause he thrust the shorter of the swords into the offenders back, just below the nape of the neck. Adair pulled the bow, ready to sink an arrow into any horror that might emerge from within.

The first assault upon Tyrus came quickly as the smell of putrid flesh filled his nostrils. The animated rotting carcass of a man stood, leaving the cow laid out to bleed violently. It rounded on its new assailant with jerky, laborious movements. A low murmuring moan not unlike the bovine death rattle issued from the monstrosity’s remaining bowels.

Reflexively the hunter let forth with a wide sweeping arc of his second longer sword, but he was unable to find its mark in those close quarters. Wrenchard and Jonas arrived, spreading out to the flanks of the poised Adair and the small hut. Guardedly, Tyrus began to back out. Wrenchard, not far from Adair, pulled forth from his quiver a large dart. Jonas moved past the byres closer to the breach, looking for any more of the abnormalities. Jonas too could see the frenzied combat that was taking place down the line. Following its prey from the byre, the zombie lurched forth after Tyrus. Both Adair and Wrenchard’s missiles hit their marks, burying into the creatures leather-like flesh. Unchecked, it still came. Now able to swing freely, Tyrus stood his ground. Wrenchard and Adair continued to circle around the melee, careful not to injure their friend, finding their target as often as they missed.

The zombie seemed unaffected by the warriors’ weapons, only the greater of Tyrus’ two swords proved especially effective. It continued to lumber on, arrows and darts sticking from it in every direction. Jonas spotted what looked like someone who may be in need of help just beyond the breach. Gathering up his strength, he climbed past the palisade, approached the edge of the eight foot deep trench and leapt across its near ten foot span. From this vantage he could discern the silhouette of what looked like a smaller, long-haired person cradling something in his arms. Wary of anything emerging from the direction of Dralmohir, he alerted the others. Jebediah who had stole home to collect his blade, rallied to the call. Picking his way past the first aberration he caught sight of what Jonas had seen.

In an act of courageous stupidity, the acrobatic Jonas, fearing for the safety of his acquaintances used the only weapon he had. He set his jaw, lowered his head, squared his shoulders and sprinted with all the might his legs could muster, straight into the baby-laden undead mother.

Not being the most nimble target, Jonas collided hard. He barely managed to maintain his balance after pushing the zombie back. It was at this moment that the lute-player realized he knew the victim. Lou Ann Crowley and her enfant terrible, Morgan, had died two years prior. Jonas was frozen in momentary horror. Beneath her now glassy glazed eyes Jonas would’ve never known that the woman was once fond of him, she swung hard a clenched fist. It was brought to bear across Jonas’ eye and ear, bringing him back to the present. Jonas looked up. The baby’s worn teeth were stained brown and it’s once chubby skin now hung like drapery from its withered form. Unchecked by the reality of this situation, Jebediah dug his heels into the ground and unsheathed his mighty hand-and-a-half sword, calling for Jonas to withdraw. Obliging the pilgrim’s desire to fight, LouAnne hurled her malicious toddler at the man. The child flew past landing in the dirt, rounding to gnaw at Jebediah’s calves. Mrs. Crowley shuffled forth.

By this time Wrenchard, Adair and Tyrus had finally finished the initial offender. Tyrus continued to pierce and slash the downed corpse certifying the cessation of its unnatural movement. Adair and Wrenchard both, quivers light, moved to flank Jebediah, searching for opportunity to strike this second target. Looking down now, Jebediah noticed the smaller, more immediate assailant.

“Argh, it’s a baby!” His scream echoed through the still night air. “Kill it! Kill it!”

With several repeated blows of the unconventional blade he cleaved the thing in twain. Tyrus moved forward to form a line with Jebediah.

“Stay back!” Jebediah called to the less well-armed combatants. Jonas obliged and nursing a headache, crept back toward the byre.

Inspired, he called out in song, “And the mighty warriors fought the living dead that came across the breach…”

Wrenchard spotted another such creature, a young girl, emerging from the darker lands beyond. Quickly the two swordsmen dispatched LouAnne, ending her fitful unrest, but not before Jebediah suffered stinging gashes and lacerations from her claw-like nails. Closing the line, flanked by the palisade, Wrenchard and Adair waited with the swordsmen for the next threat.

“…and the mighty warriors formed a line to keep the undead from penetrating the town,” the sounds of Jonas’ song came to them as he stooped near the cow byre quickly patting down the first felled zombie, in search of weapons or anything of value. Within seconds of the mindless automaton approaching the line, consumed with bloodlust, they cut it down.

The danger averted Wrenchard and Adair paused to quickly salvage any darts or arrows they could. Tyrus looked none the worse for wear. No stranger to pain, Jonas clenched a cool rock to his eye in an attempt to alleviate some of the sting and heat of the swelling growing there.

Jebediah, still excited, asked loudly, “Are there any barbers in town?”

With the threat passed, crickets slowly began to chirp again.

“Healers,” he clarified after lack of response “anyone who can aid me?”

As Adair approached Jebediah, looking him over, he explained that the first Adair, eldest of the three bearing the name in the small town, was a fair substitute. The sounds of footsteps, much more rhythmic than those of their fallen adversaries, approached the group now. Two men bearing torches and cudgels were led by Harden Speck. One of the men was Jesse Tanner, the second Gerald the broad-shouldered, full-bearded carpenter. Gerald let loose his hound, Motar, and headed to the cow byre.

“Well done,” Harden commended. Jesse stood eyeing the darker lands beyond the breach. In a hushed voice the deputy leaned in on Wrenchard, “We’d better get moving along before anyone suspects anything of your odd group out here together so late.” He again raised his voice, “Well we’d better see how Edwin’s faring up on the north end. Glory-a!” (10)

Harden turned back from whence the way he came. Jesse diligently fell in behind. A loud whacking sound came from the animal shelter and the low moaning ceased to issue from within. A bloodied Gerald emerged, nodded in the war hero’s direction, and then joined in step.

“Motar, c’mere! Here, boy. Come!” He called, in procession.

Safely out of earshot, Tyrus voiced his true feelings about the militia and their inadequacies. Unable to abide by the slander, Jonas took offense.

“Why are you saying that? They were fighting too.”

“Well, you’re a part of the militia and you look like you got a good ass-kicking” remarked Tyrus.

“Well, I’m used to it” Jonas conceded.

“No, your valor was acceptable” Tyrus vindicated.

“I’m glad you think so.” Jonas’ sarcasm was lost on the social neophyte.



(1) – Duat is the name of the state of the soul while in Anubis’ Realm. It is a calm emotionless state where there is neither pleasure nor pain, simply being, until judgment by Osiris. It is also used as the name of the actual “place” where the souls are found.
(2) Wrenchard Valinson is considered a local war hero due to his brave actions and inspiring words at what would be called “The Battle of the Mill”.
(3) There are a few ‘Adair’s in town, as it became a popular name due to the respect earned by the oldest Adair in town, a healer and herbalist of no small skill.
(4) – One hand is a measure of height commonly used in the kingdom to determine how tall men, women, children and livestock (most notably horses) stand. One ‘hand’ is based upon the width of the actual sovereign’s hand and this can oft times lead to confusion, whereas one ruler may succeed another whose hands were either more or less wide.
(5) – Gus Sweeney, owner/proprietor of the Kendrick public house has never asked anyone for as much as a copper for a drink from his bar.
(6) – Crown Prince Melguen Yearnall is the current ruler of the principality of Rhondria.
(7) – Wrenchard Valinson is easily the wealthiest landowner of the hamlet of Kendrick. He is the only man to employ house servants, and he share-crops his lands.
(8) – Harden is referring to the only other bridge which crosses Black River. Split Mountain Bridge is in Menovia, to the south.
(9) – The Breach – Ever present on the mind of those who live in Kendrick is the close proximity of Dralmohir to where they live. The breach is easily the most dominant feature of the town, a long palisade wall of sharpened stakes jutting outward to the east. Just below this wall is dug a long trench, running the entirety of its length. No one knows when this wall was constructed or for how long it has stood, but the townsfolk repair and improve upon it wherever they can. Some of the older citizens remember it being hardly necessary, almost comical, but now it is often the only deterrent to those who’d seek the living as a meal. The attacks by foul undead creatures have become much more frequent in the past years, beginning to unnerve several of Kendrick’s citizens.
(10) - The pride of the religious community of Kendrick is a large amber-bronze piece of glass. The 10’ tall, 6’ wide rectangular ‘window’ stands propped upright between two sturdy wooden support posts where the more pious and devout worshippers of Ra gather at both dawn and dusk for small services to bask in his ‘Glory.’ The sun that radiates through wave-rippled glass emanates an almost unnatural warmth upon those who gather in its glow. At other times throughout the day, others will stop by and bow to the Glory, and thusly to Ra, or stop and beseech with a few prayers. The ‘Glory’ of Ra has been in Kendrick so long that many of the older members of the community have actually begun to weave it into their common colloquialisms. Through time the faithful have taken to calling to each other in passing that they would meet or see one another later at the ‘Glory’ of Ra. In hurried passing, greeting, or farewell this eventually got quickened to ‘Glory-Ra’ which ultimately became what is now today, just ‘Glory-a.’ This is not a common saying among all Kendrits but popular among the older, and more devout of the community.
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That was definetely a good read Rastfar. I'm familiar with nemm's story hour, and I'm glad to see another Aquerra campaign. I'd like to read more!


Jonas Fawkes

First Post
Well that a mighty fine story there Mr. Rastfar, sir. One worthy of a story-teller such as myself. . . I do know my letters. Or, at least most of them, and I can sound out the rest.

But you are doing a fine fine job, but I am warning you. I'm here to keep you honest and make sure you paint all our actions in the proper light (especially mine, which are oft-misunderstood).

Now someone was telling me something about how this magic box can tell me a tale of some other adventures in Aquerra? It boggles the mind!


First Post
Session 2

session #2

Afterwards, the small group gathered under the star-flecked sky, discussed a few tentative plans and then went their separate ways.

Wrenchard had a short walk home, skulking inside, careful as not to wake his wife and children. Adair slipped in through his own bedroom window, unnoticed. Tyrus quietly picked his way through town, noting that the faint unmistakable light of candles flickered on the inside of the shuttered windows of Motie’s house. Not bothering to slow, he quickly found himself on the northern rim of the pyre grounds and headed up into the hills he called home. Jonas also crossed town. In the distance he could see the faint glow of John Fisher’s smoldering funeral pyre, it radiated stubbornly, continuing to burn defiantly into the dark of night. It threw firefly-like lights into the starry sky, and Jonas' gaze lingered there for a while as he almost mindlessly trekked home. Somewhere in the imagery, he found inspiration for a song.

Jebediah found his walk home to be the quickest. After sharing a few paces with Mr. Valinson, he bade the map-maker good night, patted Albert the donkey on the head, and entered the still cold old Stilwell home. Constance had waited up, and he could see that she was visibly concerned. Picking up her cherished black-lacquered wood and ivory comb from the sideboard, she pushed back the hair from the right side of her head. She turned and looked at him. Her perusal continued down to his chest and his open wounds there.

“What happened?” she asked, maternally.

“The undead,” Jebediah’s responses always seemed short.

“No, after dinner,” Constance was doing her best to clean and dress her brother's wound, but not to hide her annoyance. "I was rudely dismissed. You've been gone awhile."

He nodded in silence, as she forcefully pressed hard on a particularly deep gash. He felt that he at least owed her an explanation. He tried to elaborate on the woman’s place in society in Kendrick, or at least the Valinson home, and how she might have to at least appear to willfully take that role. He then explained to her the seed of the conspirators’ plan.

“You have no opinion?” Jebediah encouraged her to express herself, hoping it’d curb her mood.

“I always have opinions,” Constance disparaged. “I don’t like it.”

Jebediah knew Constance’s capacity for unrelenting umbrage all too well. She was a strong-willed young woman. He tried to change the subject knowing her feelings would not be easily assuaged.

“Perhaps we should get ready to sleep.”

“There are no beds here,” she groused.

Doing his best to avoid the argument that she seemed to want to start, Jebediah proceeded to their packs. He unfurled their bedrolls and did his best to make the area comfortable. She laid down to sleep with heavy silence, her attitude doing more to annoy her brother than her harsh words could.

Ralem, 22nd of Syet– 564 H.E.

Morning came as morning does, and Tyrus was on the move with Matet, (1) early as usual. The sturdy woodsman tended his camp and still, before proceeding towards town. Arriving at Gus’, he used the back entrance to the kitchen. Gus was hard at work as he was every morning. Huge sides of beef hung from his hooks, and bundles of various cuts were strewn about any flat surface that could hold them.

“Mornin’ Tyrus,” the sleepy-eyed barkeep smiled at the sturdy young man. “Want some beef?”

Tyrus, wary of the sudden abundance of such a rare commodity for Kendrick refused, “No thanks, Gus.”

“Well, as you can see, I’m not gonna be needin’ much fer a little while. Sorry.” Gus’ perpetual smile seemed to fade a little, but quickly his spirits livened. “I could still use that tonic though,” he exclaimed noting the jugs in the hunter’s hands.

Tyrus left the jugs and bid Gus a good day. He took his leave and proceeded down the bank of the river on the westward edge of town. He knew that hunting to the south of Kendrick was still somewhat more prosperous. He also knew that Adair led his family’s sheep to Wrenchard’s land out this way, too. Not much for company, Tyrus did occasionally tolerate the black-haired boy’s company. With Tyrus, Adair was for the most part quiet, attentive, and not too inquisitive. For these reasons, the woodsman was frequently able to find time to bring the shepherd boy with him on hunting trips. Adair also proved to be a natural with the bow.

Finding Adair down in the fields that still grew grass in the vales nestled among the hills, Tyrus invited him along. As usual, the shepherd had risen early and having now led the sheep to pasture, found himself with nothing to do for the day. With the increasing absence of any large predators in the area, his presence was rarely missed. Enjoying the skills and knowledge that Tyrus was willing to impart, he eagerly accepted. Together they continued south, occupied with the hunt for the rest of the morning.


Jebediah sat up slowly. For the past two years or more he hadn’t been afforded a good night’s rest. His back was starting to bother him, and had long since developed an irremovable crick. Habitually, he tried to crack it. The popping vertebrae woke his sister close by. Jebediah could see that she too was annoyed with her fitful sleep. He wished he could offer her more. He knew that she was looking forward to finding some comfort in this small hamlet. Constance collected herself, and Jebediah offered her privacy, leaving to collect water from one of the communal wells. He returned shortly to find that Constance was dressed, her long raven hair pushed back with her comb. The Groomers did their best to wash up, and they proceeded out into the crisp morning air.

Jebediah picked up where he left off and continued to reshingle the house. He handed his sister a broom, which had obviously been long forgotten inside, and asked her to sweep. She accepted it with a look of astonishment, but wordlessly began to half-heartedly clean up. Satisfied with the structural integrity of the outer walls, it wasn’t too long before Jebediah got the notion to check the roof for any serious damage. If only he’d had a ladder. Remembering that he’d seen one prominently displayed on the side of a house closer to the commons (2), he set down the hammer and set off to ask a favor of his new neighbor.

Within minutes he arrived at the cooper’s house and rapped on the door. An imperceptible smell permeated the area. A loud holler came from inside, and was followed immediately by bumping sounds. The shouting continued, the door was flung wide, and a man’s stubbly face was thrust violently into the air before Jebediah’s chest.

“Damn kids, I’ll getcha! Rats, I’ll catch ya!” The cooper continued to scream unprovoked.

He suddenly realized that he’d been hollering into the chest of an adult, and a stranger at that. “Oh,” he uttered, taken aback. “You must be the new guy.”

The cooper seemed mildly suspicious, but happy to have someone to rant to.

Jebediah introduced himself. “Jebediah Groomer, I was wondering if I might borrow your ladder? My sister and I are fixing up…”

“…the old Stilwell home.” The ornery man finished. “Yeah, I know. Got any kids?”

“Hunh?” Jebediah was confused. “Uh, no.”

“Good, I hate kids. They’re rats, all of ‘em. Here to curse me, I tell ya. Especially that blasted Fawkes kid. Oooh, he’s the worst. Caught him once though, I did.” A sickeningly twisted smile seemed to creep over the balding man’s face. “Broke his wrist and everything. Ha!”

“The ladder…?” Jebediah hesitantly interjected.

“Oh. Yeah, yeah, sure,” he said, and then introuduced himself “Pollack Zigler.”

The cooper shook Jebediah’s hand. “C’mon.”

Pollack quickly shut the door behind him and looked up at the eaves of his roof. Finding this odd, Jebediah did so as well, but saw nothing. Pleased with what he seemed to not see, Pollack left the threshold and stalked off to the left side of his house. Again, Jebediah thought this odd, as he knew the ladder to be lashed to the opposite side. Pollack thrust his head abruptly around the corner, his body tense with anticipation. Jebediah waited by the door and watched as the man’s knuckles turned white, gripping the wall joices. Again, pleased with what he seemed to not find, Pollack returned to his neighbor and led him around the opposite side of his home. As if expecting to surprise someone, the cooper suddenly dashed around the corner, but once there quickly drew up short. Glancing around, the wide-muscled cooper removed his worn ladder from the side of the house. Jebediah attempted to help, but Pollack intentionally moved to disallow him to do so. Ladder in hand, Pollack followed as Jebediah turned to lead the way back to the Stilwell home.

Pollack quickly bent the pilgrim’s ear, taking the opportunity to rant about the malevolent nature of Kendrit children and their constant malicious behavior. Jebediah quickly tuned him out, adding only the polite nod and cursory “uh-huh” every now again, when conversation prompted him to do so.


In his family barn’s hayloft, Jonas awoke with a start. Casually, he climbed down and headed in for some mid-morning fare. He quickly found the oat muffins that his father often made, as a few were still left out. Resolving to be more prepared in the future, the shaggy mullet-haired boy went to dig around the storage area that was his room. Quickly he found his militia-issued studded leather armor and dusted it off. Flicking off some patches of mold, he strapped it on. It fit. Grabbing the remaining muffins, his balls, lute, and military fork, (3) he headed out.

The walk took a few minutes and the trouble-maker was sure to scoop up a fresh sheep patty along the way. As he drew nearer the cooper’s house he slowed his pace. Oddly, it seemed that Pollack was not around and his ladder was gone. This was almost too easy. Not to be denied his pleasure; Jonas went ahead and threw the patty up into the eaves of the cooper’s roof. (4) Before too long he approached the new Groomer home.

Promptly spotting the cooper’s back, he could see that Jebediah was up on the roof taking his time to inspect its durability. Mr. Zigler seemed to be rambling upward to the man out of his view. Stifling a chuckle, Jonas moved wide to circumvent the elder man’s view. Rounding the opposite side of the house, Jonas found Constance quick to cease her sweeping as he approached.

“Good morning,” Jonas beamed and threw out a wink. He still had an ear bent for the likelihood that he may have been spotted by the cooper.

“Good morning,” Constance leaned on the frail broom.

“Have you had breakfast?” Jonas asked, moving toward her and inside to relative safety, away from Pollack who still droned on in the background.

“No,” the girl replied as anxious to indulge him as quit her menial chores.

They entered the still dusty home that was naught more than a three room shack. The smell of must and age still pervaded the home. Jonas noted the two sleeping bundles close on the floor and the lack of any other amenities. He set down his pack, rifled through it, and produced a fistful of somewhat squashed oat muffins. Taking one for himself he tossed one in her direction.

“Here ya go.”

Constance deftly caught it, and took a bite remaining more focused on the strange mannered boy than the less threatening muffin. Awkward moments passed in silence, before Jonas offered, “Ma faszher makesh zheeshe,” through a mouthful. Jonas noted a nefarious patch of green flecks not dissimilar to the color of the fresh sheep patty on Constance’s muffin. Dexterously, he snatched the spot away, as Constance recoiled from the sudden attack towards her mouth. She put aside the muffin.

“It was, I saw, it may have been a bad nut,” Jonas apologized.

Constance, put off, let the muffin lay, “I’m not that hungry.”

Jebediah thanked the cooper who left for home in a hurry, and came into the house. He could read Constance well, she felt uncomfortable. Not taking too kindly to Jonas’ unannounced arrival he turned to his guest.

“Good morning, Jonas.” Jebediah moved intentionally between the two.

“Mornin’ Jebediah, want a muffin?” Jonas offered up another, innocently to Jebediah who accepted.

“Careful, they may have bad nuts,” Constance quickly warned.

Pausing to inspect the confectionary, he asked, “Are you ready to go see the boats then?”

“Yup.” Jonas continued to munch away.

Jebediah satisfied with the freshness of the muffin, coolly took a bite.

“They’re much better with goat butter,” Jonas continued.

Jebediah put the muffin down and gestured the crumb-faced visitor toward the door. “I’m sure they are.”

Intentionally, he waited for Jonas to leave first. Turning to Constance, “Please, behave yourself. I don’t want any more trouble here.”

Wordlessly, she followed as her brother caught up with Jonas.


Wrenchard rose to the sounds of his children playing in the crisp morning air outside below his window. He looked down and saw his wife, and little Dian (her mother’s spitting image) clinging to Kelize’s skirt. Annabelle, the five year old, had already become soiled by grass and mud. She ran in circles about the yard with a stick, dragging it in the dirt as two blue-grey cats chased it. He sighed heavily. After cleaning up, he made his way downstairs with several matters on his mind. The most heavy of which was perhaps the one he least looked forward to. He had not yet conceived of how to address this concern with his wife. Letting the heaviest fall to the bottom with gravity, he ate a hearty breakfast of steak and eggs, before setting off to his tasks of the day.

Wrenchard, deep in thought, found himself standing before the deputy’s door without even realizing he’d walked there. Returning to the here and now, he briefly reflected on the startling quality of the body to be able to pilot itself when necessary. He rapped lightly on the door. The soft sound of movement emanated from inside and the door was opened. Wrenchard realized that he had disturbed the young man’s peace, but he considered his reason worth breaking Harden’s routine. Harden invited him in to his snug home. The two men sat, enjoyed steeped herbs, and discussed at length the credibility of Voldish Mezger. Wrenchard sought to glean what he could of the well-traveled limner. He thought more of his questions might be answered by the venerable educator.


Tyrus and Adair ended up spending not just the rest of the morning, but also early afternoon on the hunt. Successfully, the woodsman was able to lure and snare a large turkey. Together they field stripped the bird and cleaned it, while Adair practiced mimicking the expert hunter’s turkey calls. They split the meat and before heading home.

After parting ways Adair decided to visit the eldest of his namesake in hopes of obtaining a healer’s bag. They bartered awhile; ultimately ‘Black’ Adair traded the turkey (once smoked) for a small kit of healing supplies. The shepherd boy left and proceeded to the butcher, Edwin Kerswill, to negotiate smoking the meet. Invited into the man’s proud smoking house, Adair noticed the vast amount of food supplies already hung there, ‘in progress’ (5). It was agreed that the butcher would smoke some game for the young man. In exchange he expected Adair would enlist the aid of his woodsman friend to secure a good quantity of mushrooms with which Edwin could experiment.


Meanwhile, Jonas and the Groomers found their way to the steep sides of the river. Climbing down the drastic two-foot drop to where the boats were lashed to protruding roots, the young men climbed in one. Jonas took the other oar from the older of the two vessels. Neither of the men had any particular experience with boating, it was obvious to Constance who suppressed a laugh, observing them begin to circle and drift down stream with the slow current of the waters.

Taking charge from the back, Jonas instructed Jebediah. “Keep your rowing in time with me.”

“I can’t see you. How do I do that?” Jebediah stated the obvious.

“Oh, we’ll sing a little song.” And Jonas let out a tune. “Row, row, row yer boat…”

They carefully and doggedly picked their way across the 100’ wide river, only ending up about 150 yards or so downstream from their starting position. They worked their way back. Upon doing so, they’d decided that they’d practiced enough for one day. As the prow came to touch the river’s edge, Jebediah reached out for an extended root. Jonas noticed Constance watching with interest from above. He deftly leapt up onto his feet, held his oar aloft above his head and attempted to twirl it circularly in an impressive display. The boat rocked violently. Jebediah sat back low loosing the root. The boat slowly began to drift back and Jonas barely maintained his balance and his grip on the oar. Constance looked unimpressed and Jebediah glared at the clownish boy.

“I just wanted to test the boat out under dangerous conditions,” he excused.

They came ashore and spilt up.

The Groomers returned home and ran into Wrenchard who invited them to share his home for the duration of their stay. They filled the rest of the afternoon and early evening with packing their belongings, Albert, and making preparations to leave. Jebediah asked Constance to pack a lunch for them to eat on the following day.


Jonas walked to the widow Fisher’s home. He found the woman distraught and melancholy though hospitable. As hurriedly as possible he steered the conversation towards the topic of her deceased husband’s boats. Knowing that the Valinson’s coffers were open to him, he unabashedly began generous negotiation.

“You name a price and I’m sure that Mr. Valinson will pay it.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” she sobbed.

“Well why don’t we say uh…thir…fif…seh…uh…”

In a moment of clarity, “Are you okay?”

“Uh, yeah. I was just saying that Mr. Valinson would be glad to pay you 60 pieces of silver for both.”

Deflated the widow collapsed into Jonas’ arms sobbing, “Just take them. I can’t use them.” She bawled.

Doing his best to console her, “No, he’ll give you 60…maybe even more…”

The young militiaman spent a few more minutes with the widow in his embrace before excusing himself.


After finishing his chores in town, Adair headed to the Valinson lands south of town in order to bring in the sheep. Though still early, it was getting dark sooner due to the weather and he wasn’t taking any chances. As he crested the nearest hill, he happened to peer further southward as movement there drew his eye. Shielding his eyes from the glare of Matet’s fading glow, he noticed erratic movements atop the hills; about a day or so away was his best guess. A small, barely perceptible wisp of smoke rose skyward from the center of the action.

Not bothering to count the heads, the shepherd boy herded the flock home in time for dinner. He arrived just in time for the fray. As his parents and four siblings aggressively maneuvered to fill their plates, he narrowly avoided flying elbows and deftly ducked reckless fists. Soon the meal was over, and Adair was thankful for it. He excused himself. Slipping out the front door, shirking his cleaning chores, the second son Bannon dashed out of earshot before slowing in town.

A slight spring in his step, the observant young man halved his pace as was habit when nearing Motie’s house. Keeping both eyes on the nefarious dwelling, Adair witnessed even more peculiar behavior. Suddenly, violently, the door to Motie’s house opened inward and wide. Light poured out into the rapidly darkening path. Yet Adair could see no cause for this. He stopped. Not wishing to be seen and curious as to how the diminutive man perhaps knew how he was nearing the house, though still well over 100 paces away, Adair shuddered. There door stood open, invitingly so, Adair dared not move, or even flinch. For what seemed like hours, he waited. Then as suddenly and forcefully as the door had been pulled in, Motie’s distinguishable face was thrust out into the night. Adair froze. The small recluse gazed about in every direction, as if searching for would-be offenders. Finally, as if satisfied, Motie disappeared back into the threshold and the door fell softly shut, silently.

His curiosity got the best of him, Adair resumed silently approached the building. The low flicker of candlelight danced on the inside panels of the shuttered windows. Nearing the front door, Adair noted a few crimson strands of thread trodden into the ground. He was only three paces away when he heard more shuffling inside. Without hesitation Adair sprinted (the long way around) to his teacher’s house. He didn’t know if he’d been spotted or not, but he did know that he didn’t want to stick around to find out.


It was mid-afternoon when Tyrus noted the overcast skies. Following the western edge of town via the riverbank, he noted the Fishers’ boats lashed to the embankment; neither Jebediah nor Jonas were to be seen.

Sometime later as evening drew nigh, Tyrus crept back through town, stopping briefly to converse with the carpenter. He knocked at the Fairbourns’ door. A basso bark bellowed from within. Tyrus could hear Gerald approaching as he told his hound to calm himself. The broad-shouldered man opened the door still wielding a large fork spitted with a brussel sprout. Motar heeled just behind his master, a low growl issuing his warning. With an extended hand palm out, Tyrus squatted slightly in an effort to empathize with the Kennan-hound. The hound backed up as Gerald moved forward. The large man’s silhouette filled the door frame allowing little light to escape into the night air. Sensing the disturbance that he’d caused, Tyrus was quick to get to the point. He facilitated the exchange of labor for root tonic and supplies. Handing the much smaller woodsman an over-sized jug, the bearded craftsmen slammed the door.

Tyrus took the jug and moved on. Promptly he arrived at Wrenchard’s.


Once outside of the widow Fisher’s gloomy home, Jonas crossed town to the Valinson’s. Arriving there in high spirits, he proceeded to rap at the door in a fast rhythmic series. Gravis answered.

“Stop,” the butler said, he was noticeably annoyed.

The manservant led Jonas to Wrenchard’s study. Wrenchard spotted Jonas following closely behind as they drew near, performing a remarkably accurate impression of his stodgy elder’s walk and mannerisms behind the man’s back. Wrenchard concealed a grin.

“Hello, Jonas,” Wrenchard greeted.

“Hello, Mr….Wrenchard. I’m hungry, can’t you have your butler fetch us something to eat?” Jonas called after Gravis who had just left the room.

Immediately outside, out of view of his employer, Gravis leaned backward to scowl at Jonas. The malcontent glowered right back.

“Gravis has been very busy as of late,” Wrenchard claimed. “I can get something myself.”

He returned before too long to find the inquisitive boy nosing about he over-sized mahogany desk. Distracting the ever-curious Jonas to the chaise with apples and fresh salted beef, he resumed conversation asking about the scribner.

“I learned to read from the limner, Mr. Mezger.” Jonas proudly capitulated.

“Really? What’s he like?” asked Wrenchard. Voldish Mezger was one of the few individuals in town who the middle-aged father had never really had cause to come in contact with.

Sensing the importance of this conversation, Jonas puffed up. “Oh, he’s a great man. Very kind. Very patient. He often told me, ‘Jonas, I have to use all my patience with you’.”

They continued to talk for a while, Wrenchard having to use a little patience of his own, before Adair arrived.

Gravis and Jonas again exchanged contemptuous looks. Adair engaged in pleasantries only long enough to tell of the ‘things’ he noted approaching from the south. As the three speculated, Tyrus arrived.

Again Gravis had to explain to the woodsman why proper decorum dictated that he part with his weapons. Comfortable with knowing where they were in the event of danger, Tyrus too was shown to the study.

Jonas mocked Gravis’ grave grimace as the older servant left.

Shortly thereafter the Groomers arrived. An excited Kelize accompanied Constance who took her leave upstairs to get settled in. Jebediah joined the other men in the study.

The five conspirators talked awhile of their respective endeavors of the day before the discussions to more important matters, Jonas – always one to speak his mind, began.

“I don’t think Constance should come.”

Jebediah was quick to reply, “After what I saw last night, I don’t want to leave her here.”

“Where we are going will be more dangerous…or likely will be,” claimed Jonas.

“I don’t want to leave her.” Jebediah stressed.

“I think winter is coming early.” Tyrus changed the subject. “There was hard frost on the ground out of town this morning.”

With this proclamation on their minds, they again looked at Wrenchard’s unmarked map and discussed travel plans. The idea of relying on an unlabeled map, which was only decipherable by its creator did not sit well with all of them.

“We’ll stop five or ten miles south of Black River Bridge,” confirmed Jebediah.

Jonas interjected. “How will we know when we are five miles south of there?” Before Jebediah could answer, “…oh yeah, you are from there. You’ll recognize the terrain around there.” Jonas did little to hide his cynicism.

“Uh, yeah,” Jebediah stumbled.

“And I’ve been there before,” Wrenchard added with a look to Jebediah.

After more discussion, Wrenchard agreed to mark the map, labeling far away Scales in Menovia, Black River Bridge, it’s namesake river, Kendrick and the capital city, Black Top. A lonely point of interest still remained. It too was labeled, last, the Temple of the Black Serpent.

Jonas suggested that Jebediah have Constance dress as a boy.

Jebediah looked at Jonas, “While we are on the subject. While we are on this journey you should all keep your hands to yourselves.”

“What does that mean?” Jonas feigned innocence.

“Don’t try to get romantically involved with my sister,” the thin veils hiding threat were soon parted.

Jonas was almost too accommodating, “Of course not, someone would have to be a fool to do such a thing.” He paused, “However, in all the epic tales it is during stressful and traumatic times that people are drawn together.”

Close to Jonas, Adair could see Jebediah’s ire beginning to rise. “Shut up, shut up, shut up…” the shepherd muttered under his breath, hoping that Jonas would hear.

Jonas got the hint and allowed Tyrus to redirect the conversation to their short supply of arrows and more importantly provisions. It was agreed that they would have to concentrate their efforts on securing these items and that they would do so as quickly as possible, wanting to leave at the end of a week’s time. Adair recapitulated the odd occurrences that he’d been witness to at Motie’s house and while bringing in the sheep. Jonas told Wrenchard that the boats would cost 70 pieces of silver. The conspirators gave Wrenchard the go ahead to confide in Voldish if necessary and then made their way out into the night to find their ways home.


All the while Constance was happy to find an excuse to let her hair down. She was brushing out the long straw-colored locks as Jebediah came in. She could still smell the brandy that he and Mr. Valinson had been drinking after the other guests left. He did not relish what he now had to do. He crossed the room to where she stood before a mirror-backed bureau, her prize ebony and ivory comb lay on its surface. It was hard not to admire her beauty.

“What would you think about dressing as a boy?”

“What?” Just the reaction Jebediah expected. “Why?”

“It may be safer if we were to encounter anyone, easier for us to stick to our cover story.”

She held the ends of her hairs length, she surveyed them through the brush. Jebediah could see that they were badly frayed, mismanaged. He knew that something would have to be done to disguise her endowments, loose fitting shirts and pants.

“And you’d have to cut your hair…” he added.

“No.” Her reply was short, curt, and full of derision.

Jebediah knew to leave it alone, “What if you were to say that you were my wife. This would be more plausible, it’d be easier for me to protect you.”

She balked slightly, “…er.”

“We could pull that off, nothing romantic would ever really come up, and we could always just peck if necessary.”

Constance didn’t seem to take too kindly to this idea either. She pulled her hair back into a loose knot and moved to sit on the bed. Jebediah could see that she was much more comfortable here in the Valinson estate, color had begun to return to her face, and she enjoyed more of the amenities.

“I think I like being your sister,” she pulled back the bedspread, caressing its downy softness.

Jebediah changed tact, “Well, so be it then. Can you please try to keep your distance from the others? You know how you have an effect on men.”

Entirely unaffected, “Yeah,” Jebediah could hear the conceit in her tone, happy and cocky all the same. He was reminded of his mother.

“I’m serious. We don’t need such complications on such a dangerous journey.”

Noelle entered with a basin of fresh washing water and a bedpan. Jebediah knew that he’d get no reply and took his cue to exit the room. As he did so he heard from within, “Oh, Noelle, would you be a dear and pack us all four lunches tomorrow?” It was as much of a command as it was a request. Jebediah winced and entered his room, “Pa, always said she learned quick.”


Jonas returned home, the elder Fawkes was still awake.

“Evenin’ Pop.”

“Good evening, Jonas.”

Jonas moved into the room and took his usual seat across the hearth. He stretched anxiously, knowing what he was about to do, but not wanting to do so. Isaiah pulled a poke from his pipe. The smell was one Jonas always associated with comfort, stability, home. It didn’t make this any easier.

“Would you be able to use a donkey, Pop? On the fields? To help with the plow?”

“Well, sure, I reckon I could. But son, you know we can’t afford to buy no donkey let alone feed it.”

“Yeah, I know…” Jonas hated this moment.

“Well, you know Mr. Valinson is putting together an expedition, and those new folk are going along, and they have a donkey but can’t bring it, ‘cuz it’s gonna be in John Fisher’s boats, well, they’re Mr. Valinson’s boats now, and…” Jonas knew he was rambling. He felt awkward and sorry. The last thing he wanted to do was let his father down. “…I’m goin’?”

His father was noted in town for two things, diligence and patience. Jonas never fully understood or appreciated why.

“Hmmm,” Isaiah exhaled the sweet smelling smoke. “I imagine donkeys eat oats then?”

“Yeah,” Jonas waited.

“I guess we could take him in. Not much use now though with winter on the way.”

“Mr. Valinson invited me. He wants me to go. He said a militiaman should go. That’s me.” Jonas was desperate.

“This isn’t about the Jingle Jangle thing again is it?” (6)

“No, Pop.”

“When are you coming back?” Isaiah measured the young man sitting across from him. “I’ll be needin’ ya come plantin’ time. You’ll be back by the season?”

“Of course, Pop.” Jonas was mitigated.

Encouraged he changed the focus, “But you know Pop, Mr. Valinson has this idea about leaving…?”

“I know, I heard it,” his father interrupted. Jonas could tell that the 44-year old man didn’t think too highly of the idea.

“I’m just trying to say that if we should come across something…”

“Come now!” Jonas knew the idea of starting over vexed his father. “You know we should not talk of such things in the house.” The air of relaxation was thinning.

“Come on, Pop! How long are you going to avoid the truth of our surroundings? The land is drying up. The water is foul. You see this welt? LouAnne Crowley crawled out of the breach and did this to me. This season we took in half the crop of last season which was half the crop from the year before. We’re losing everything we have.”

“Yeah, but it’s ours. We have something. I can’t afford to leave it all and have nothing. I don’t have time to be beginning, again.” Isaiah was frustrated with his boy, his land, his life.

Jonas saw it in his father’s eyes, for the first time he detected a flaw in the pillar of strength that had always been his dad. He got up and gave the man a hug, “I know, dad. I know.” Isaiah remained resolute and Jonas mindlessly juggled some cups, his thoughts elsewhere, as he left to the barn.

While Jonas practiced his Gravis impression, pacing the length of the worn barn floor, not far across town Adair was having a much similar conversation with his father. The difference was however, that Adair’s father thought it to be a fine idea. His son would be learning new skills, not eating from an already crowded table, and back in time to tend the sheep come springtime. He could think of nothing finer. The conversation was short and Adair vowed to spend more time with the preoccupied man before leaving on his journey.

Isilem, 23rd of Syet– 564 H.E.

A sheet of mist-like rain permeated the air, serving to slowly saturate all who walked beneath it. Tyrus rose with the sun as he did most days. He checked in with the jovial pub owner who still needed no meats, having mounds of beef, and left the oversized jug full of root-tonic outside of the carpenter’s door. He snatched a handful of brussels sprouts from the laborer’s small, struggling garden and headed out of the sleepy town. That morning he intentionally sought more avian prey. Before beginning his hunt, he tapped a tree for pine pitch setting it to flow into a jug. The woodsman killed a pair of doves by midday.


The Valinson’s enjoyed a healthy breakfast of steak and eggs, with some oatbread. Kelize was thankful for the company that afforded her the practice of etiquette, which some from higher courts would say she needed. The host and hostess entertained their guests for the duration of the early morn while they awaited Jonas’ arrival. Adair showed sometime after breakfast. Gravis answered the door, allowing the young man to enter the foyer area. Behind he could see Constance descending the staircase, he hardly recognized the beautiful girl in the flax-woolen dress that stood there, leaning on the banister for support. Not entirely sure that they’d been formally introduced; he waved off Gravis and took the opportunity to do so. Still three steps up, Constance stopped, noticing the boy’s approach, her look of glamour reflected in his eyes. She folded her hands atop each other on the large ball at the rail’s end. Adair bowed deeply, and gave his name, making excuses as to why they had yet not spoken. She extended her hand, which he gladly accepted, kissed the back of, and held to escort her down the last three steps. No stranger to courtship or chivalry, she followed his lead, tucking the same arm through his as they made their way to the sitting room. Wrenchard, Kelize and Jebediah rose as the two entered to take seats. Only Jebediah noticed the slightest of gestures, her arm at his side, but it was enough for him to remember. They all sat down, Adair next to Constance on the couch.

Mid-morning, Jonas arrived tousle haired and his clothes wrinkled. While Constance went upstairs to change, the men waited downstairs. Wrenchard excused himself briefly returning with a large sack of coinage, giving it to Jonas who carefully judged its weight. Wrenchard, uncertain as to the wisdom of his decision, reminded Jonas how much the widow needed the money. Not needing to delay any longer, Wrenchard escorted the three young men outside. They began to pack Albert the donkey, bidding farewell to Wrenchard who headed off to visit with Voldish Mezger.

It was a short walk through town to the limner’s, as most walks in Kendrick are. Voldish opened his door to Wrenchard and invited him into his humble abode. They enjoyed steeped herbs and spoke of the elder man’s traveling days, Derome-Delem in particular. Wrenchard was utterly shocked to find that Voldish, after coming from Verdun, in Herman Land – the capital of the world –was escorted to the little Kingdoms by dwarves. This small tidbit of information shattered everything that he thought he knew either about dwarves or the old man sitting before him. Assuming that the scribner was still lucid, he found this curious. As the morning passed and they talked some more, Mr. Mezger, who stroked the loudly purring cat on his lap, could see that Wrenchard was troubled. As the family man stood to leave, Voldish offered some meager words of encouragement.

“Don’t strain yourself.” It sounded simple enough.

Reaching the door, Wrenchard turned, “Oh, by the way, Jonas Fawkes says hello.”

“Oh yes, he’s about three weeks late for his next reading lesson.”

Wrenchard felt that he should explain what might amount to an exceptional tardiness, “He’s coming with me.”

Voldish, not noticeably surprised, answered in turn, “Oh, well, good luck to you then.” He picked up his porcelain cup and drained its contents. Wrenchard admired the craftsmanship of the foreign drinking ware.

“Oh he’s a good kid and we needed a member of the militia, since it’ll be dangerous.” Wrenchard believed that he’d created the perfect opening to begin spreading his cover story.

Voldish was surprised, “He’s in the militia?!” The cat, Aslan, leapt to the floor.

“Yes,” Wrenchard thought it a bit odd that Voldish was unaware of this fact. The long-haired feline padded towards Wrenchards legs. It leaned into the man, weaving between his ankles.

“He’s no Harden Speck.” Voldish apparently held the deputy in high esteem just like his contemporaries the sheriff and the priest of Ra.

Always the politician, Wrenchard knew just what to say. “Well, few are.”

And he left, crossing town to the old smithy and the smelts where it was agreed that he’d meet Tyrus later that afternoon.


Constance closed the door behind her after bidding their hostess a fond ‘Good day.’ The four of them, Albert in tow, walked to the Fawkes stead. By the time they arrived they were all already wet. Jebediah could see his sister’s spirits beginning to sour. They walked Albert into the barn, where Jonas pointed out his favorite loft. The Groomers patted the reliable companion’s head and they left.

Adair shouldered the bundle that Noelle had provided, Jonas led and the Groomers trailed behind speaking to each other in low tones. At the riverbank, Jonas and Jebediah took their time descending the now slippery slope. Adair and Constance watched from shore, huddled in the slight rain, as the two men again practiced rowing back and forth between the two river banks in the up till now untested boat.

Jonas struck up a tune to keep time and rhythm, “Turkey in the straw, haw, haw, haw! Turkey in the sea, Hee! Hee! Hee…”

Already churlish Constance murmured to herself, “How rural.”

After two such runs they felt it to be sufficiently stable. They moored and helped Adair and Constance down.

Jonas helped Constance into the center of the boat, “Here, Constance, you can represent the load of equipment.”

She didn’t like the analogy, “So, I am baggage?”

Adair sat down beside her, “No.”

Jonas couldn’t resist. Leaning forward to Adair’s ear, he whispered, “Do you need a crowbar to pry your lips off her ass?” A hint of jealousy tinged his voice.

Adair turned about and smacked Jonas fraternally across the head.

An only child, Jonas took exception to the attack, “Do that again and I’ll be smacking you with an oar.” He brandished the clumsy implement as menacingly as possible while sitting in the rear of the boat.

All conversation ceased, the four of them went up the river about a mile and a half and rowed back. They gauged the river to be navigable and not too hard to negotiate. They’d made decent time. Jebediah exchanged places with Constance, much to her protest, and the two surly boys sat in the middle. She let out an exaggerated whining grunt with each stroke of the paddle. Jebediah ignored her complaints.

Again, Jonas could not resist, “Oh yeah, she should come along.”

She said nothing under the strain, but Jebediah stuck up for her, “I have faith in you, Constance.”

Jonas’ mood soured as much as that of the girl, “I’m glad someone does.”

After making Constance practice for the better part of an hour, they again returned to shore for lunch. They enjoyed sandwiches of roast beef and oatbread, apples, and water. After eating, the men were able to bring the older of the two boats up to dry land. Holding it aloft, they looked for any obvious leaks. Unable to see any, they agreed that the boat must take on water due to minor seepage via the weakened integrity. Tyrus arrived with the pine pitch just in time as Jebediah did his best to dry the inside bottom of the craft. He layered the mucilaginous liquid on thick, spreading it evenly across the entirety of the base. Turning the boat over, the same procedure was repeated. This used all of the pine pitch, and they decided that it’d be a good idea to get more for the sake of resealing the other boat as well.

Tyrus took his leave to continue south to the better hunting grounds there and Adair preferring the woodsman’s company joined with him. They two, hunted for mushrooms, tapped more trees for pitch, and located wood sufficient to be crafted into oars and arrow shafts.

The Groomers returned to Mr. Valinson’s taking refuge from the Kendrits and the rain.

Jonas returned to the widow Fisher’s. He found her to be much the same as when he’d last left, forlorn and melancholy. She echoed the mood that permeated the day. He gave her the sack of coin, sure to tell her that 60 pieces of silver was a lot of money; she should be well taken care of. He didn’t tell her that it actually contained 70. After leaving Jonas hoped to find a reprieve from this sourness that was welling inside him. He headed to the pub.

He spent the rest of the afternoon playing what could only be considered mediocre pieces at best on his lute. Several patrons actually left. Disheartened by the cold reception as well as his lackluster performance, Jonas decided to grace the militiamen with his presence that night.

Adair gathered the meager handful of mushrooms and brought Tyrus to reign in the sheep. While crested on a nearby hillock he showed the woodsman of what he spoke of the eve prior. They had arrived to see the end of what looked to be a column dipping into a gulley below; six mounted riders trailed behind the speculated advancement of who knew how many. The riders flew no standard and bore no crest. They did not move fast, but were not moving slowly. At the woodsman’s best guess they were only a half-day away.

As evening drew nearer Tyrus turned for home, carrying arm loads of wood atop which his pitch filled jug balanced. He passed though town to deposit the raw materials with Gerald, and check on Wrenchard at the smelts.

A belabored Wrenchard was hard at work attempting to figure out a way to create makeshift molds for arrowheads. He had already stoked fires in the tall circular cones of packed earth, using his hearths bellows to keep them hot. Sweat, rain, and soot all served to make him an ominous site in the fading minutes of daylight.

In the waning light Wrenchard spotted Tyrus’ approach. He hoped the woodsman knew how to locate raw ore. As it turned out, he didn’t. Wrenchard was exhausted and welcomed the break. They realized that without the proper tools, supplies, and equipment, despite lack of know how, they weren’t going to forge any arrowheads.

Tyrus gave up,”This is not gonna work.”

Wrenchrad frustrated with the young man, who’d not even worked at it, for lying down so easily, lashed back, “It was your idea.”

Tyrus either didn’t care or didn’t agree. “Let’s make arrow heads from shale,“ he flatly suggested.

The hill dweller walked away wordlessly to the pub where he sought to find tendons useful for tying tip to shaft. Wrenchard stood in the wet night air, following the silhouette, wondering what the ranger’s capacity for cooperation was going to be; and if perhaps, he’d made a mistake accepting the enigmatic man’s aid.

He was tired. The map-maker threw down his stoking rod and headed for home. He knew he was late for dinner. He assumed Kelize would be upset. He guessed they’d have waited to begin eating. He entered the dining room and found he was right on all three counts. Kelize scowled at him, the children were rammy. Annabelle jumped up and crossed the room to embrace her father’s leg. Not to be deterred by grime, she wrapped her arms around and squeezed tight.

Jebediah cut through the social graces and looked over his shoulder to his host, “How goes the project?”

Wrenchard looked up from the smiling face that beamed at him like a beacon through a cloudy night. To be young and innocent, so full of life, he reflected. With a heavy sigh he explained, “It’s a wash and so should I. I shall return.”

He scooped up his daughter, kissed her forehead and set her at the table. He bade them begin their meal lest it get any colder. The tension was only slightly relieved as he left to clean up.

Later that evening, after the kids went to bed, Jebediah tried not to overhear a heated conversation down the hall. It was brief and ended with Wrenchard storming past Jebediah’s room; a slam echoed in the corridor. The guest was not as quick as Kelize in his closing his door. Wrenchard drew up in front of it, placing his hand out and slowly pushing it in. Jebediah and Constance looked at him, expectantly.

“I’m out of practice. I was wondering perhaps if you’d like to spar.” He directed towards Jebediah.

Wordlessly Jebediah rose, brushed past his host, and headed toward the room where his equipment was secured.

Wrenchard glanced at Constance in her housedress, her hair brushed out, the right half pushed back from her head with her precious comb. It served to half veil her face as the long locks draped down over her left eye and the corner of her lips. Innocently, she crossed her legs, briefly revealing her perfectly soft thighs.

Unaware of what he’d been doing, but sure he’d lingered too long, he quietly turned, closing the door behind him. Had he not averted his eyes, he might not have missed Constance’s knowing smirk.

The two men met outside, in the shadow of the house. The ambient light from the hearth poured through the windows. It was sufficient. Jebediah approached in his full regale. An ornate breastplate of unusual design was fitted atop his studded leather body wear. A nose guarding cap helm covered most of his face. Wrenchard feigned and danced, avoiding the man’s precise thrusts. The bastard sword was large, much larger than the war-hero’s own short sword, making it much harder to parry. Folding his left hand into the hem of his cloak, Wrenchard weaved using the cloth as an appendage, making his body movements less predictable. For minutes the only sound was that of exerted grunts.

As they drew up, nodding to each other, sweat began to bead on their brows. Constance joined them, unexpectedly. She laid down the bundle beneath her arm, twisting to let the lithe blade hanging at her side remain unobtrusive. Wrenchard noticed the similarity between Jebediah’s leather armor and that which Constance now donned with expert precision and speed. Tying her hair back into a loose knot, comb pushed back tight from her forehead, she drew the fragile flexible foil and advanced on Wrenchard. Jebediah tucked the helm beneath his arm and looked on amused. Left hand counterbalanced behind her head, she stepped towards her host. He was initially caught unawares as the two Groomers’ styles were so drastically different. But as they two exchanged play, thrust, parry, stroke, swing, weave, a dance ensued, both competitors evenly matched.

Wrenchard bowed low, respecting the heretofore unknown skill of Constance, and watched as Jebediah came at her, mace held high. It was a clumsy display, but good practice nonetheless. Jebediah instructed more than sparred with his sister, as he blocked blows that fell on his shield and encouraged her to dodge his heavy blunt implement, rather than parry it as she was naturally inclined to do.

The exercise did them all good; though Jebediah’s wounds tore open slightly causing them to cease their activities sooner than expected. Constance helped her brother up the stairs to redress his injuries, leaving Wrenchard alone in the house below.

He sat by the low amber glow of the hearth in his favorite comfortable chair and propped his legs up on a stack of firewood. He routinely stroked the cat nestled on his thighs, lost in thought as he enjoyed his brandy and the warmth of his home. He’d be leaving it all soon. He didn’t know if he wanted to, but he knew he was ready. As he watched the flames of the hearth mingle, spitting greeting s to one another, his mind turned over the past few days events. He now understood why Jonas had earlier mentioned that he had ‘a sinking feeling’ about the Groomer’s. The Fawkes boy was much more observant than the Kendrits gave him credit. They seemed to be full of surprises.


(1) – Matet is Ra’s chariot, the blazing ball of fire that arcs across the sky daily.

(2) – Typical of any small community there is a clearing close to the center of it. Here at the heart of the hamlet lies the commons, an area where most residents gather to trade their wears, barter, and haggle for what they and their family need. There are no set trading days since the commons are close enough at hand, that if someone stands out there with their goods in no time everyone in town knows that there is something up for trade. The exchange of coin is rarely, if ever, necessary. As outside trade has become less and less common, the commons have become less frequently used (though individuals do still set up there) as one can go to another’s house and trade just as easily. In the center of the area remains a rough hewn stump of what must have once been a ‘ginormous’ (to the kids) tree whose roots were obviously too big to dig up. This 4’ high natural podium has served many purposes in the past, including crier’s stand, religious pulpit, and political stage among others. At times the commons is also used for festivities, celebrations and funerals, the Festival of Isis being the most notable of them.

(3) – That military fork was something Jonas had been fond of ever since he had found it at the site of Battle of the Mill. Luckily, he had been sleeping somewhere close by and was awoken by the remaining officer and soldiers who fled the encounter. After he crept away, Jonas led Mr. Valinson and the Rhondrian regulars to their location where they were promptly dealt with. Among the remains, the boy found the military fork.

(4) – Most of the older kids (a tradition for younger ones to inherit) throw dung up onto the ornery middle-aged bachelor’s roof. This is a continual effort to pile it high, to bake in the sun, causing an awful stink. As a result Pollack has taken to leaving his ladder lashed to the side of his house, ever vigilant to clear his eaves of the invading refuse.

(5) - One of Edwin’s favorite things in the world is to smoke meats. The smells from his smokehouse often change as he tries new woods, leaves, nuts, and herbs with which to infuse flavors. He often begins his day by walking to the smokehouse and spending a few minutes inside ‘breathing in the progress.’

(6) – Jonas was a foundling, abandoned by the traveling troupe the Jingle Jangle Players. He was adopted by Isaiah and raised as his own. Jonas has always been curious to find out more about his real parents.
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First Post
Oh yeah...

Tune in next time, when you'll hear such gems as:

"Do you know how much alcohol is in here? (with hand gestures) BOOM!"


"Frick. What do we do now?"

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it's all so familar

great job buddy, It's like I was there or something. i never caught that the limner's cat's name was Aslan (good reference).

Next week's installment is gonna be a killer, with lots of time in the outhouse.

Black Bard

First Post
I'm still stuck in the beginning of session 2, so I'm in no position to make any comment, except that you have some good writing skills...

But, I would like to make you a question out of curiosity... "Rastfar" is the name of Escher's goblin aide in Nemm's campaign, isn't it??


First Post

Black Bard,
Why, yes, it is. Though it was mine first. That is a whole other story (Nemmerle's idea of an inside joke). Thanx for reading.



First Post
I love the story, and it is definitely worth the reading time(something which might scare away people looking for all out action). I love the characters and the mundane aspects of their lives which are about to change. Good writing as well. Hopefully, once some more of the character secrets have been revealed in story, we can see what the classes are for everyone. Keep up the good work.


Black Bard

First Post
I really like the way you depict the character interation, you do a great job in fleshing out the characters...

BTW, how many sessions you guys played so far??

Oh, and don't be offended by the goblin story, I remember that the goblin's name was given as a homage to the deceased Rastfar, which I assume was a character of yours...
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Moderator Emeritus
Black Bard said:

Oh, and don't be offended by the goblin story, I remember that the goblin's name was given as a homage to the deceased Rastfar, which I assume was a character of yours...

Actaully, Escher has no idea that the original Rastfar and the rest of his companions are dead - so it was a "living tribute".


First Post
Session 3

session #3

Osilem, 24th of Syet – 564 H.E.

Tyrus woke with the sun as was customary for him. Trusting Gus’ food supplies to still be ample, he decided to forego his usual morning hunting expedition. Rather he chose to dedicate some time to shaping some arrowheads for the up-coming journey. He crept from the old Stilwell home where he’d squatted for the night and headed north to where he knew out-croppings of shale could be unearthed. Though still overcast, Osiris (1) had granted a temporary reprieve from the rain. The hillman knew it was still too warm for snow. But soon, soon a cold snap would come as it always did – welcoming winter, ushering snow, sleet, and ice. It would seem relentless in those dark months.

Enjoying the last days of autumn, the outdoorsman found one of his favorite places to think and relax. A small brook could be heard playing through the rock, not far away, running to meet its end at Black River. A large moss-padded rock emerged from the hard earth as if still being sculpted by tree roots, which clung to its sides in unyielding embrace. In the shadows of the birch trees, atop the stone he folded his thick legs and leaned his back to the wood, letting the cool sounds of Shu’s (2) whispers and Tefnut’s (3) babbling resound melodiously to the whistles of Osiris’ faithful. He found comfort in the solitude and eased his mind as the rest of the morning slipped away, broken only by the occasional rhythmic crack of rock.


Adair also woke early and dutifully led the sheep to the pastures south of town. There, he occasionally shared fields with Van Feicht another Kendrit shepherd who leased Valinson land. Van was slightly older than the popular crop of late teens in Kendrit. A contemporary of Harden and trapped in between generations, Van often sought out the companionship of those younger, unlike the deputy who enjoyed the company of his elders. Van, eight seasons Adair’s senior, still enjoyed much of the talk and activities of the young. On this particular morning they shared adjacent fields. The two exchanged pleasantries and chatted awhile.


Wrenchard awoke his muscles sore from the prior night’s martial training. It was good. It reminded him of more exciting days gone by; days of life, of energy, of nerves, of fear; not death, waiting, dying, and wasting. He felt alive. Swinging his legs out of bed sharp pains shot from his calves to his thighs. He had forgotten how much practice could hurt. It was good. Outside he heard his beloved Annabelle’s screaming excitement. A grin barely graced his lips before the sounds of his petulant wife scolding his eldest daughter wiped the proud smile clean away, forgotten. Wrenchard still had no resolution to the great burden, which he bore upon himself. Forlorn, he dressed and descended his worn staircase to seek out a late breakfast. Passing Jebediah’s room, he noted a raspy cough rumbling therein.

He joined Constance at the table for steak, eggs and oatbread with fresh whipped goat-butter. She greeted him warmly with an affable smile, rising as he moved to sit down. When he inquired as to her brother’s whereabouts she reported her sibling’s sudden bout of illness. Jebediah had come down with a light variant of the bog flu and would be requiring rest for the day. She alleviated any fears that Wrenchard may have had about the seriousness of the condition, reassuring him that it was quite common amongst those who’d taxed themselves while traveling and it was not contagious.


The Fawkes boy rolled over in his half-sleep still struggling with his clothes and clutter for position on his bed. The military fork it seemed had led a mutiny and Jonas flopped onto the floor awaking with a start. He looked bleary-eyed at the victors up on the bed and sat up to avoid the light that poured in through the window shutters. Whether his father had let him sleep, or whether Isaiah had been waved off by Jonas or the mattress revolutionaries, he did not know. He shambled to the kitchen where he washed down some old oatcakes with goat’s milk.

Jonas figured that he’d go to visit his favorite avuncular figure, Van Feicht, and headed out toward the grazing grounds just south of town. Arriving there he found his friend to be stretching in the field. Unable to resist the opportunity, Jonas tumbled over the awkwardly positioned man shouting a greeting as he temporarily eclipsed Van’s view of the sky above. Coming up from a forward somersault, Jonas embraced his tutor’s hand. Van often spent time in the pastures teaching himself to juggle, tumble, walk on his hands and fall from trees. They were kindred spirits and Jonas had spent many days with Van Feicht learning similar skills. The shepherd would annually perform shows in the commons for the town during the Festival of Isis (4), and included the younger Fawkes into his routines. Van unconditionally encouraged Jonas in everything he did and truly believed in the young man. Van Feicht was Jonas’ best friend.

They shook hands, and from afar Adair could see the two chatting, laughing and sharing stories as well as challenges. It was a common sight to the young shepherd boy, but he was somewhat envious of the deeper friendship. Adair turned his gaze back to the sparsely crowned hills southward. Only a few hours before he’d seen the tail column of about a dozen men cresting a hill two small valleys away. Judging now by the roiling dust to be seen just beyond the most immediate hill, the last one between the riders and Kendrick, it’d be an hour now, no more.

Jonas and Van approached the base of the barren deciduous Adair rested in, whittling away the time. From his slightly better vantage he called down what he’d seen. His report had struck a sense of urgency in Jonas who sprinted back to town.

Minutes later the youngest militia member arrived at the sheriff’s house/office, leaning in the open doorway he drew up, catching his breath. Mr. Cronk waited patiently for the boy, assuming he knew what was coming next.

“Sturgis! A dozen armed and armored riders are heading to town from the south! I think we should alert the militia, but not everyone so they won’t panic.”

Sturgis armed himself with a heavy crossbow from a meager cache of weapons in the office and did just that, urging Jonas to keep a cool head upon returning to his post in the south fields. Before leaving, Jonas took one last deep breath, swiped a light crossbow from the wall mounts, a quiver of bolts and adrenaline fed muscles carried him at full tilt back to where his friends waited.

The clatter of Jonas came stumbling by the Valinson home disturbing those without and in. Tyrus had just emerged after leaving his fistful of arrowheads with Wrenchard who’d be fletching the shafts supplied by Gerald. The hillman would have laughed at the sight if he didn’t realize the seriousness of the situation. He moved around behind Wrenchard’s house to holler at the bumbling young man. Jonas didn’t hear Tyrus as he attempted to scoop up the bolts that kept obeying gravity, all the while continually tucking the slippery crossbow over his shoulder, as he ran in an awkward bent position. Unresponsive to the ranger’s yells, Jonas grabbed what composure and equipment he could and kept running.

Wrenchard opened the sitting room shutters and called out to Tyrus who was now chasing after the man. The two attempted to hold a loud conversation over the 300-foot distance. Neither could discern much of what the other was shouting. Constance, drawn to the commotion, entered the room able to see the futility in what Tyrus and Wrenchard were attempting.

Inquisitive, she could not resist, “What is going on? Jebediah is fast asleep but he might not be for long with all this noise.”

“There is some trouble by the pasture. Jonas is running, going to shoot himself or something.” Wrenchard realized the nonsense of the statement, silently hoping she didn’t.

“Wolves among the sheep?”

Wrenchard now realized that Constance had been left uninformed as to what had been transpiring. “I doubt it, Adair mentioned men approaching yesterday.”

Wrenchard closed the shutters and began to outfit himself with arms and armor. Constance, naught else to do, asked to tag along. Wrenchard nodded his assent, suggesting that she make the same preparations. Thinking better of it, the Groomer girl just waited for her host.

The two trotted out to the edge of town.


Jonas near collapsed from exhaustion once he got back to Adair’s tree. As it turned out Van too had left shortly after Jonas; Adair minded the sheep. Shortly thereafter Tyrus arrived handing four bolts that Jonas had dropped back to him. Wrenchard and Constance caught up to the group in time to hear Adair’s report. Tyrus ran off almost immediately to do an end-around via the river, wanting to come up behind the riders. Jonas turned on the two newest arrivals.

“What is she doing here?” He asked Wrenchard with incredulity and then turned to Constance. “What are you doing here? This is no place for you.”

“What do you mean?” Constance seemed genuinely confused.

“Those could be a Menovian raiding party.” Jonas gestured with a fistful of bolts towards the nearest hill. Dust billowed from behind it.

“So?” came her reply.

“You know what they do…” Jonas thought his suggestion was enough and distractedly eyed the hilltop warily.

Constance only returned a blank stare.

Now more anxious, “…to young women, uh, old women, any women.”

Wrenchard motioned Constance to join him over to where he’d located a secluded hiding spot amongst some low-lying brambles and scrub. Standing out in the open to welcome trouble would be no good. Constance hustled to him, and a thoroughly frustrated Jonas hid behind Fatty Lumpkins (5) in the flock of sheep. Not to be too conspicuous Adair climbed down from the tree and acted as a shepherd boy, not a very hard feat for the young man.

Time stood still and the ominous heralding quiet blanketed the fields. The four remained still, silent, three not daring to budge, peek, shift or speak – to be discovered attempting to hide would surely raise unwanted questions.

A stone’s age later, the companions all felt it: the resonating rumble rising through the earth. The shod horse hoofs thundered. Yet they remained unseen. The companions all heard it: the thunderous gallop of heavy burdens borne by swift mounts, steeds of strength, endurance, and speed. Yet still they remained unseen. It was almost unbearable for Jonas. Wrenchard and Constance froze nearly holding their breath. And suddenly it all ceased.

Adair saw what the others could only hear. A single man led his mount to the pinnacle of the hill. He paused, leaving the mount, and slowly, methodically paced the entirety of the peak. Eyes intent upon the ground, for minutes he’d squat, listen, examine, peer at the town and pace some more. Only the sounds of creaking leather from the shifting horse broke the silence. It was obvious that the tall blonde man was searching for something. Adair had seen this behavior in Tyrus before. The lightly armored stranger did not even give Adair a second glance, focused he looked back to the town, eyed the ground and remounted.

As if in answer to Adair’s curiosity, he could now see the lone man for what he really was – lead scout of half score men who now came riding up behind the tall, loose pony-tailed, tracker. The ten riders spread across the hill’s crest. All seemed eager as they shifted in their saddles below the weights of their mismatched armors and helmets, adjusting all manner of weaponry and shielding. These ten men lacked uniforms, standards, tunics or heraldry. The only quality Adair could see that they did share was their lack of standard outfitting.

As they fanned across the hilltop, two of the ten men rode forward to speak with the only unhelmed individual, the blonde man adorned in a chain shirt who rested a heavy crossbow with some odd box-like attachment that jutted from its belly at an odd angle, in the elbow of his bent arm. A morningstar and shield were secured to the side of his mount. The scout half-turned his mount at the approach of the two men.

The first to approach started to speak though Adair had no means to tell what they were saying. He was an athletically built and well-defined man laden in scale mail and a side-burned helm that boasted protective leather flaps for the ears and neck. He wore a sheathed longsword and what must have been an ornate dagger. This gleaned from a decorative scabbard it was in. A red bordered shield broken into three black fields hinted details of silver across the distance.

Just behind the speaker a smaller, pear-shaped man in chainmail nodded his agreement to what the first man must be saying. This man’s reactions were obscured beneath his point-tipped cap helm. He held aloft a heavy lance, positioned at an awkward angle so as not to disturb the half spear lashed to his back. Adair could make out the shape of an ankh painted in black on the man’s small ovoid shield.

The sundry mix of men, arms, armor and mounts waiting behind echoed down into the valley. Tell-tale sounds of metals and leathers escaped into the still clammy air. The conversation atop the hill broke and with a slight gesture from the scale-armored man, the patchwork band poured down the slopes quickly closing the last gap to Kendrick. As Adair stood enrapt in some horrid from of wonderment and awe he relayed what he saw, loudly, to his hidden companions. Confirming all suspicions, he was sure these were Menovians.

Whether he was too loud or the lead scout had exceptional hearing the shepherd boy did not know. But it was enough for him to give pause, reigning in his mount. Adair clamped his lips so tight, all color faded from them. He had been noticed. In an instant he was examined and judged; the scout in the chain shirt rode on. The more well armored warriors followed in suit one of which spat in Adair’s direction in passing.

The flock of sheep disturbed by the horses thundering past moved as of a single mind, trying to distance themselves. Jonas duck-walked, precariously balanced, in motion while struggling to keep his secrecy intact. Within hour-long seconds the column had passed the sheep pasture where all were ensconced, leaving the Kendrits to their speculations.

Time flew forward, doubling to make up for the pace it had lost. Adair spotted Tyrus coming over the hill the riders had just descended. Jonas hopped up and hurtling fleeced backs sprinted towards town. Wrenchard trotted up the hill, passing Tyrus quietly, while Constance walked to where Adair stood still absorbing the action.

Tyrus continued past Constance and Adair, hustling after Jonas they presumed. Wrenchard mounted the hill, shielded his eyes from Ra’s blinding light and scoured the landscape below for any sign of a rear guard. Satisfied that any such unit must still be far away, for he saw nothing, he returned to the shepherd boy and the mid-teen girl.

In a hushed tone he leaned in on her, glancing about furtively, “Constance, when you and your brother left Menovia did you have any reason to believe that you’d be hunted or followed?”

She seemed to cast about in the long pause it took for her to answer. “I have no reason to think so.”

Citing wisdom as the better part of valor, the war hero bid Constance to return to his manor and hide his wife and children beneath the home in their root cellar. Heeding his words she did so and the trio hustled back to town, Adair and Wrenchard continuing to the commons.


Here the riders were dismounting, stowing large weaponry and packs, securing saddlebags, and stretching their legs. Easily followed, Jonas had caught up to them as they began to move away from their steeds. Not yet wanting to be spotted he quick ducked behind a house and tried to lean out from the partial cover, spying on the arrivals. Tyrus started circumventing the warriors, wishing not to be seen, and headed toward the north end of the town - and the back of the pub – skirting the breach.

Wrenchard approached the area where Jonas paced about trying to look. Adair flattened against a house. Wrenchard whispered to him, “Jonas, any ideas?”

Jonas was curt, “Ideas about what?”

“Their intentions.”

Jonas was now mildly annoyed, whispering back heatedly out of the corner of his mouth without breaking eye contact with the ground, “They seem to be taking their weapons from their horses.”

The small group of Menovian irregulars made their way to the pub.

Adair and Jonas followed not too close behind, and flanked the front windows, within earshot of the action inside.

Wrenchard quickly picked his way across town, approaching the pub from the rear where he met Tyrus on the way in. Ali and Meg Hartigan were simultaneously hustling out the back, prompted by Gus. The two men let them pass then slipped in before the door closed, finding places to hide just inside of the open kitchen. Tyrus crouched behind a large stack of wood for the hearth. Wrenchard had an obscured view through the kitchen window from his kneeling position behind the dominating chopping block. Tyrus began to grow more and more agitated with each passing moment. He was uncomfortable and his anxiety was beginning to wear on his face, Wrenchard could see it.

With sudden clarity the ranger stopped fidgeting and made eye contact with the war-veteran. In a hushed voice he spoke across the kitchen’s open door frame. “Do you know how much alcohol is in this place right now?” he asked rhetorically. And with an exaggerated gesture, both hands spread wide, he mouthed a single word, ‘BOOM.’

Wrenchard stymied a snort and hung his head low, shaking his head in disapproval of the man’s zeal.

It became readily apparent that the men outside were thirsty and wished to begin their carousing. Gus entered the kitchen, calling back any and all satiating comments he could. Tyrus quietly caught his attention. Again knowing the effects of his uncle’s homebrew, he urged the pub-keeper to serve them all ‘the straight stuff’ in direct contradiction to his usual admonishments.

From the kitchen Tyrus could see a bit of the action as Gus returned and began to pour the root tonic into cups on the bar. The man dressed in scale-mail half turned to the rest of the crew and addressed them. Van Feicht had the misfortune of being seated next to where he stood at the bar.

“Let your hair down and enjoy yourselves men. You deserve it. But watch out for these country folk, they’re not all kindly mannered.” He prompted the pear-shaped man, sergeant Malchiah, to get up and begin distributing the refreshments. With a nod to his captain he did so. As they were both only little more than ten feet away now, Tyrus and Wrenchard got a good look at the two men.

Captain Sterling was of a taller more athletically muscled build. His helm now resting on the bar, they could see the thin brown beard that framed his mouth and face, accentuating his brown hair that parted in the center, and pushed back into a naturally curving s-wave. The man had sunken grey eyes highlighted by long eyelashes, the tiniest dimpled chin, and he tended to squint inexplicably. He held aloft his own cup with his effeminate hands while his sergeant passed the rest around.

Malchiah was thick-legged and thick-middled. Stubbly black facial hair patched with white shaded his face. Sausage-like, stubby, dirty fingers groped the cups, sloshing liquid as he moved about with a heavy nostrily exhale. The most prominent feature of his face was the noticeable slight dent in his wrinkled forehead. His greasy mid-length unkempt brown hair did little to hide it.

All the soldiers drank a toast to the words of their sergeant. “To Captain Sterling - what every Menovian officer should aspire to be.”

The tension in the room loosened some, as did the men’s lips and the volume in the pub increased. Wrenchard began rummaging through the catalogues of his mind to find the familiar sounding Menovian officer’s name. He was certain that he’d heard it once before.

Captain Sterling set down his own cup and called to Gus to pour him more. Other Menovian warriors found the tonic to their liking, though some took to watering it down instantly. While waiting for his refill, Sterling turned to the nearest Kendrit.

“You boy, stable my horses!” He shouted at Van; silence landed hard in the room like a rock.

Foolishly, Van turned slightly away, ignoring him.

“I said, stable our horses!” And with a pronounced swing, the captain brought up his left arm, bringing his gloved left hand to bear where Van’s face would have been had he not been so nimble. Though seated, Feicht was still able to sway backward dramatically, locking his legs into the stools’ for counterbalance and support. Sterling’s swipe went wide. The Menovians grumbled, a few stood, and steel could be heard leaving its sheath. Sterling fluidly brought his left arm back up, cuffing Van with a backhand, as the acrobatic shepherd was now returning forward as his maneuver dictated. The shepherd went sprawling.

Van regained his composure and wiped the blood from his mouth, licking some from his teeth, through which he seethed. Wordlessly, he crept out.

As the door closed behind him, the Menovians again embraced their revelry, as if nothing had happened.


Jonas trailed after Van who started leading the horses from the commons, towards his barn. Realizing that if his friend had to stable all of the Menovian steeds then Van’s sheep would be forced to remain out of shelter for the duration, Jonas offered his own father’s barn for half of them.

“I’m gonna take a couple now, but could you bring the rest to my dad’s place for me when you are done bringing some to yours?” Jonas asked.

Van Feicht nodded, sullenly.

The would-be entertainer mounted one of the horses, and leading another, he cantered across town to his home where he grabbed up his lute and some other entertainment necessities. He left one of the horses there. Sack and instrument in hand he rode back and made his way to the pub.

In the meantime, duties needed to be tended to and Sturgis arrived to do his. Trailed by his deputy, the sheriff entered in rare form. Wrenchard recognized it immediately, when he had to do so Sturgis could fill out to an impressive size. The sheriff puffed his chest beneath his old banded mail and his already basso voice lowered two octaves. A peace-knot tied his long sword to his belt. Shield in hand, he crossed the entryway, trailed by Harden who, as always, was cool and collected. The Menovians stood in unison. Their reaction was not of greeting. They gripped hafts, hilts, handles and shafts. The mere sight of other armed and armored men seemed to set them at the ready, as barely tame dogs chomping at the bit. Sterling held out a hand to stave off their aggressions.

Sturgis introduced himself and his deputy, politely. If he was nervous it was hidden well. Harden draped a heavy crossbow - loaded - across his right shoulder casually. The deputy inquired as to the nature of the visit. Citing routine patrol, Sterling announced his plans for their estimated duration of stay. With the approach of Welcome Winter (6), a mere three days away, the Menovians would stay for the festivities before moving on. Not wishing to linger too long or stir up any suspicions, Sturgis absorbed what information he could and left, followed by Harden who grudgingly nodded at the sergeant.

Neither Tyrus nor Wrenchard could see the entirety of the action within the common room, but they had heard enough. So too did Adair who ran off to warn the townsfolk to hide away their loved ones and secure their doors. He got a bit held up at the miller’s where he was forced to endure the man’s ire toward Menovians.

“This is perfect,” the glimmer of malevolence radiated from his eyes, “we’ll give them what for this time.” Mahlon seemed to stare right through young Adair. “Go get Sheriff Sturgis and bring him back here.”

Adair was thinking of doing that very thing and graciously accepted the excuse to escape the man’s lunatic ranting. He wasted no time, passing the rusty old stocks to the sheriff’s office. By the time he arrived Sturgis and Harden were there discussing matters. Adair compounded their problems by informing them of the miller’s bravado. He then left to complete his rounds and return to the pub.


Jonas tumbled in ready to begin the festivities for the Menovian irregulars. He boldly crossed the room and pulled a chair to his usual place by the front of the hearth.

“Hey! Welcome! Where you all from?”

After receiving the expected response, he struck up a song. “Old black water, keep on rollin’. Menovian mud gonna keep on risin’…” The men seemed to enjoy it.

After a few more tunes and a couple witty jokes, one involving the shortcomings of a Friar of Nephthys, Jonas misstepped. He had made a comment about the malevolence of Menovian officers and Setites. Sergeant Malchiah called him out.

“Fool, are you mocking our captain?” This squat man seemed eager to defend.

Always quick in wit and reply, the sly-tongued Fawkes never faltered. “Why would I do something like that? Anyway, I could only mock him if he were evil. And he is obviously an honorable and upstanding man.”

Jonas had Malchiah on the ropes; his head reeled unable to keep up with the flow of logic. The sergeant was mitigated; at least he thought so, “That he is.”

Jonas executed the verbal coup-de-grace, “Anyway, what do I know? I’m just a fool.”

And he played a light-hearted tune, displaying his mouth full of teeth. Across the room he noticed for the first time the scout that had led the Menovian party there. Only he seemed to have kept up with the banter and nodded at Jonas, smiling politely. He tossed a few silvers to the minstrel. Jonas recognized the handsome quality of the man instantly. He was pretty to the point of being almost detrimentally good looking. It put one on guard. Jonas noticed Gus secure away a sack of coins, presumably the tracker had paid for the Menovian soldiers’ fare.


Wrenchard left his hiding place in the kitchen, coming around to enter the pub properly from the front. Tyrus trailed behind, waiting outside for an appropriate amount of time to pass before following in. They did not wish to be construed as entering together.

Wrenchard crossed the short distance from the door to the bar under heavy scrutiny. There he found engaging Captain Sterling easy. The two struck up conversation as the Kendrit waited for a mulled wine.

“Valinson, eh?” The old war-hero had introduced himself properly, and Sterling now looked up and to the right, accessing his own library of names. “Pleasure.” The captain extended his gloved hand.

“And might you be the alderman of this town?” asked Sterling. Malchiah got up and moved to join in the conversation.

“No. We have no alderman,” admitted Wrenchard.

Sergeant Malchiah appeared amused, echoing the admission, “No alderman?” He turned to the captain, “No alderman.”

“Well, we can’t have a town without an alderman,” Sterling noted facetiously. He pretended to be concerned. “Can I ask where your alderman is?” He asked Wrenchard.

Wrenchard thought for a few seconds while savoring his freshly arrived mulled wine. The conversation bore ill portent. He wanted to maneuver it to his advantage. “I was hoping you’d be able to answer that.”

Sterling relented in neither his derision nor his cynicism, “You don’t now where your alderman is?”

He did not seem to think this was readily believable.

Wrenchard continued flatly, “No he disappeared several weeks ago. I think he might have been abducted by bandits.

Sterling relished the badgering, “How many weeks ago?”

Wrenchard was glad to lure the man in, confirming the captain’s assumptions of all country folk being simple of mind. “Well, uh, actually six months ago.”

Wrenchard watched as the look of proud intellectual superiority emblazoned itself on the tall officer’s face. Sterling was overtly patronizing, “Well, fortunately for you, I am authorized to act as alderman in his absence.”

Wrenchard continued his dramatic display, Sterling too conceited and Malchiah too slow to realize what he was doing. “Oh,” he enunciated with feigned surprise, “why not appoint an alderman?”

The captain couldn’t believe the man was so stupid, snarling, “One has just been appointed. Me.” His expression turned to glee again just as quickly, “So, he must have had a stately home. You will take me there. But not now…”

Captain Sterling trailed off, forgetting Wrenchard as all the Menovians bristled at the sight of a fully armed and armored man entering the pub. Tyrus lingered in the entryway of the room, unsure of his direction. The warriors stood, a few drew weapons. Malchiah measured the caliber of the man. All eyes focused on the potential threat, Gus hustled to the end of the bar, calling out loudly.

“Son! C’mere, boy. How was the hunting? Scarce I see.” The round-nosed bartender gestured Tyrus back towards the kitchen. A few suspicions were alleviated. Once behind the bar, Gus ushered the woodsman into the back room. There the elder answered Tyrus’ questions. It was obvious that the blonde man was here of his own accord, asking around about a family, and passing out lots of money to Kendrits in the pub. Among those that had profited so far were Motie and Gerald.


Meanwhile back at Wrenchard’s, Constance returned from having just been out to pasture with Mr. Valinson. There was some slight commotion downstairs and the muted sounds of voices carried up through the floor joices to waken Jebediah from his fevered half-sleep. Shortly thereafter, the voices faded away. Minutes later, Constance came in, "How are you feeling, Jebediah?"

"I think I am feeling better," Jebediah responded, trying to lift himself up from the bed. He swooned, forcing him to flop back down onto the bed with a groan.

"Try not to tax yourself, I have a feeling that we are not out of the woods yet." With uncanny insight, Jebediah could tell that she was proud of the analogy. "I'll need you rested."

"Alright dear heart, but I really am feeling better," he replied, reaching out for Constance’s hand and placing it on his head, which felt hotter than ever.

"No, you're not. You're still warm. Are you thirsty? Can I get you some water or steeped herbs?"

"Who is Herb? Is he one of Wrenchard's children?" Jebediah asked, before having a wet coughing fit that seemed to last minutes. When he was done he fell back on the bed, exhausted and in pain from the ordeal, his head spinning even more than it had been.

"You need to get your rest, we may yet need you to fight I'm afraid." Constance trailed off realizing that this was probably the last thing she should have suggested.

"Fight?" Jebediah echoed, and his eyes met his sister's. "What is going on?"

"Er, um..." She dabbed his forehead with a cool cloth wiping the sweat beaded on his brow. "It's nothing. I misspoke. Are you sure I can't get you something?"

"Ugh, everything aches. You look worried sister. I am going to be fine." He coughed deeply and spat into the bedpan. Jebediah looked up at the ceiling with a dazed look on his face. Clarity came back into his eyes for a moment and he added, "Put my weapons and armor under this bed. Better safe than sorry as mother always said."

A slight grin creased her lips at the mention of their mother, obviously recalling fond memories from more sedentary days. "I've already done so."

She stood up, leaving the bedside, crossing the room to the mantle to pour more water from the pitcher there.

"Besides, we have nothing to fear from a handful of Menovians,” she muttered to herself, barely audible enough for Jebediah to hear.

He lapsed back into a fitful slumber, his brow furrowed.


Sterling seemed to remember Wrenchard again once Tyrus passed into the kitchen. Looking down at the man he began anew, “You will serve as my personal aide while I am here in town. Now make yourself scarce.” And he waived the simpleton off.

Wrenchard gladly obliged, smiling inwardly, for the Menovian proved to easy to manipulate. His hubris would be his undoing.

Jonas finished his set, and weaved between the tables collecting a few coppers in the cap helm he held out for donations. Excusing himself briefly, he headed outside.

Tyrus headed back out into the common room to cozy up to the tracker, who was still speaking quietly with Motie. Leaning over a cup of water, Tyrus waited for the diminutive loner to take his leave. Only minutes later, Motie did just that, rising, nodding to the fair stranger, and quickly making toward the door. Tyrus noticed him secret away a hefty pouch of coinage before he reached the doorway. Without delay, the hillman slid into the vacant chair which was still warm. The stranger seemed pleased for the company and offered to buy his newest acquaintance a drink.

After Tyrus introduced himself, so too did the pearly-toothed scout, “I am Canton Myle.” He extended his hand. Tyrus noted that besides the well-worn calluses, this man’s hands were a patchwork of scars. Traces of blisters, healed cuts, sealed skin, and discolored flesh all hinted at tales of trial and effort. They shook. Canton’s grip was firm.

He wasted no time in his inquiry, “Do you know of any strangers or visitors new to town?” He leaned back casually, his left arm draped over the back of the old, wooden chair. The heavy crossbow he’d brought in with him leaned against the base of the bar, only two feet out of his grasp.

“No, not for a long time.” Tyrus noticed the nonchalant motion, and redirected. “What is it you do?”

“I find things.”

“Do you hunt game?” asked Tyrus curious as to the appearance of the bigger man.


The conversation was not proceeding as Tyrus had expected. He didn’t know what to expect, but he knew this wasn’t it. “Do you hunt men?”

“Do you eat men?” Canton replied cynically.

Tyrus asked rhetorically, “So you aren’t a bounty hunter?” He continued, “I thought you might be looking for someone who had done something wrong.”

Canton smirked a bit making Tyrus shift slightly in his seat. “Now, why would you say something like that?” Tyrus began to feel a little uneasy. The tracker now slid his right hand below the table, out of sight. Tyrus tensed ready for action. Canton’s hand came into view once more, cupping something above the table.

“Well, sometimes people pass through…drifters,” Tyrus offered.

The scout’s hand moved away revealing a small purse of coins, leaving it on the table top. Tyrus looked down at it. Canton watched the teenager do so and prompted, “But you said none for many moons…”

“That’s true,” Tyrus droned automatically still surveying the pouch. He reckoned that there had to be more coins in there than he’d ever seen. He was curious; he knew the value of coins. He wanted it. He resolved to get it.

Canton pressed the young ranger, “I found tracks at the top of the southern hill coming into town. A couple of tracks, that suggest otherwise.”

Tyrus looked up and was caught in the elder man’s stare. Again he felt uneasy. “Two tracks?”

There was that perfect smile again, “I never said, two” Canton emphasized shooting a wink at Tyrus who was now trying to figure out if he’d inadvertently given something up, or at least why this man was now acting as if he knew something, and what it was.

Tyrus quaffed his water. Frustrated by the verbal battery, Tyrus changed tack yet again. “So, are you from Menovia? Scales? What’s it like there?”

Canton seemed happy to allow Tyrus resume control of the conversation. “Well, I can take you there if you like. You could see for yourself. You know…with the right amount of money, you could start a new life there.” Canton sounded genuine.

Tyrus was confused. Not knowing what to do he stood up and excused himself. He quickly crossed the common room, bumping Valinson along the way, exited the pub and turned the corner, headed to the outhouse.

“Wrenchard! Where are you going?” Sterling hollered. He had noticed that his personal aide seemed to be taking leave of his own without permission.

The war-hero informed his new boss of his necessity that he needed use the facilities and made for the door. Wrenchard crowded into the small refuge with Tyrus. The two of them did their best to ignore the foul stench of festering feces. They spoke quickly in a hushed tone, Tyrus retelling as much as he could remember of the conversation he’d just escaped. The young hillman had determined that the tracker had only led the Menovian Irregulars to Kendrick and was operating independently on his own agenda. Wrenchard absorbed it all nodding, without interjection, so that the lad would speak hurriedly.

“He must be seeking escaped slaves or something,” Tyrus conjectured. “What else do they want people for in Menovia? And it has be Jebediah and his sister – who else is new in town? No one.”

Wrenchard did not reply, but merely rubbed his chin deep in thought.

“So, whaddya think? Should we turn him in…?” Tyrus asked, referring to Jebediah, “…and make our lives easier? Then maybe these guys’ll go away. At least this one and we’ll have less trouble.”

“Well, that may be so, but somehow I don’t think it’d be so easy. Besides, slavery is not legal in Rhondria, despite Menovian law and neither of the Groomers deserves to be returned to that.” Wrenchard lapsed back into thought.

“Well, I don’t know about all that, but I’ll tell you what I do know. Motie took quite a bit of coinage from Myle; and you know that he’s gonna turn them in. And this guy…this guy…well, he’s definitely smarter than I am. I’ll tell you that. It is only a matter of time before he tracks them to your place. So, I don’t know what you wanna do, but I like that crossbow he’s got.”

Wrenchard shook his head and proceeded to convince Tyrus that it wouldn’t be prudent to engage or provoke incident with either Canton Myle or any of the Menovian Irregulars at this time. The conspirators knew too little of what to expect or what they might be up against. Wrenchard wanted two things: more time and more information. He asked Tyrus to engage in a simple rouse in his next encounter with the man, and the ranger agreed.

Tyrus was the first to leave the outhouse returning directly to the pub.


Jonas ran into Adair in front of the public house and quickly pulled the young shepherd boy into the nearby abandoned home where he had earlier stashed his gear. The Tatem house. Wrenchard, returning from the outhouse, spotted them and hurriedly joined them inside. Adair was briefed by both of the others as to what had been happening. Jonas was uneasy and broached what was on everyone else’s mind. He suggested trapping all of the Menovians in the Alderman’s house where they could be locked in and burnt alive in a raging inferno. With subtle manipulation, he figured that Wrenchard could coerce them there easily. Adair voiced no disagreement, but Wrenchard found the idea both extreme and heartless.

Uncharacteristically, Jonas recanted, “No you’re right. I think we can shelve the idea because once they rape and murder a few people you’ll come running back to me saying, ‘Jonas, what was that idea again?’”

Exasperated, Wrenchard only asked them to bide their time and trust in him. Then he left.

“Adair,” Jonas was unusually somber, “Can I ask you a question?”


“Have you ever killed a man?”


“Neither have I.” The mere suggestion seemed to burden the already thick and stifling air of the musty old house.

“And, I don’t want to start now…” Adair trailed off and headed to the pub himself, leaving Jonas to his thoughts.

The young shepherd boy entered the common room and proceeded to the bar where he inconspicuously spoke with Gus for a while, getting as much of the story as he could.

Jonas, rolling over various scenarios in his mind, returned home to inform his father of the horses that he’d surely find had mysteriously appeared in his barn. To his chagrin he received only admonishment for accepting ‘dirty’ Menovian coinage.


Like a courtier wishing to be wooed, Wrenchard leaned on the bar, continually glancing in Canton Myle’s direction. Accepting the Kendrit’s invitation, Canton sidled up to him, laying the expected stack of silvers towered beneath his dirty fingers on the bar.

“You were obviously glancing at me,” He opened.

Over Canton’s shoulder Wrenchard could see Tyrus attempting to retain a relaxed composure at a table near a small fireplace on the opposite end of the room. He dared not let his gaze draw recognition nor linger too long, he feigned to swat at a passing fly. “Well met. My name is Wrenchard Valinson.”

“Yes, I know. I have ears.” Canton seemed to wish to dispose of most pleasantries and get right to the heart of the matter.

Still playing at the game Wrenchard tried not to admire the man’s striking good looks, perhaps another characteristic with which he could capitalize. “Then you have the advantage…”

“I am Canton Myle. I understand that you are to be Captain Sterling’s personal aide while he is in town.”

Wrenchard nodded.

Canton smiled his signature smile, like a cat that ate the canary. “I do not envy that position,” he admitted.

The two continued to tap-dance around their true desires for some time. Both content to let the other steer, maneuver and manipulate the conversation for sometime. They discussed foul waters in the region and how travelers to town are susceptible to its ill effects. Myle received nothing concrete before Valinson’s attentions were drawn away.

As the evening was closing, Captain Sterling deemed it time to be shown to his new quarters. Wrenchard led both he and Sergeant Malchiah the short distance to the Alderman’s old home, where Sterling was thoroughly disappointed with the lack of amenities and luxury. The lithe man dismissed Valinson, after being certain to inform him to report back here just after first light in the morning. As Wrenchard dropped his head dutifully, the slam of the door sent him on his way.


A few minutes after the officers’ departure, Tyrus rose to fulfill his part of the plan. He took a seat next to Canton at the bar. He saw that the tower of silvers still stood stacked high, waiting to be captured. It didn’t take long for him to take down part of the tower, as he informed Canton of Wrenchard’s knowledge of strangers in town. The capitulation quickly turned to a beating as Tyrus let slip that two such individuals were indeed staying at the Valinson home. Naively, Tyrus walked away feeling satisfied and stuffed the ten silver pieces reward for the information about the Groomers deep in his pocket.

The ranger noticed that Wrenchard was now entering the pub again. Unsure of what to do, he hurried to leave, nudging Wrenchard and prompting him to secrecy again.

“Wrenchard, may we use the outhouse?”

As dusk crept across the sleepy hamlet, Adair too left. He had to retrieve his forgotten sheep.

Tyrus wanted to make sure that Wrenchard knew at what stage of the plan they were now at. After the short briefing Wrenchard returned to the pub to clarify matters with Canton. Tyrus lingered behind in the outhouse for its intended use.

No sooner did Sterling’s aide enter than he was dragged away from his would be destination by a couple of the less intoxicated Menovian soldiers. The four of them invited him to sit down and felt it their duty to proceed informing him all about themselves. The map-maker could see the amusement on Canton’s face, as he leaned at the bar talking to Gus; both men watching him trying to slip away.

The other table of men seemed to be becoming more ambitious and finished their drinks, staggering out into the night air. Wrenchard attempted to disengage, but was pulled down by a wide hand with a strong grip.

“…and let me tell you shumshing about Capshin Shhterling. He may look like a poofta, but he’sh not.”

Wrenchard thought that this one’s name was Morgan, but he couldn’t remember exactly. There was no recognition in those glassy glazed eyes that seemed to focus 100 yards behind the cartographer’s head.

Tyrus emerged from the privy with a bit more spring in his step. Ever alert he noticed as four of the Menovians exited the pub and moved toward the closest house. They began to yell inside through the latched shuttered windows. These men obviously wished the company of whatever poor unfortunate soul waited inside.

There was no response.

The men, not to be deterred, moved to try the door at the front of the house. Tyrus crept along behind, keeping his distance. He ducked between the shadows and alleys of the other houses unconcerned for any noise he might possibly make. The Menovians were loud.

The Menovians reached the front door of Ida Cubitt’s house and found it barred. One of them, Alex Tyrus heard them say, forced open a shutter that shattered beneath his heavy mace. No windows in town had glass panes. With the wooden slats removed, the Menovian clambered in unhindered. Tyrus crouched low behind them to their right, by the side of a building. Even at this distance, approximately 100 feet or so, he could see that the men were still armed and all armored. He waited.

It didn’t take long for Alex to get the door open and the remaining three men entered the house. The last, the largest of the group carrying a long spear, closed the door. Tyrus heard what he guessed to be a bar, fall back into place inside the door.


A scream caught Wrenchard’s attention. It did not seem too far away. It was enough to give him an excuse to slip away from his present company and out into the chill night air. As he stood there transfixed, wondering which way to go, and as if in answer to his query there came another scream.

Circling around Ida’s house, he moved to where he knew the forty-some-odd year-old woman’s bedroom to be and tried the shutters there. They were latched shut. However, above the grunting, someone heard his attempt at breaking and entering. Raising the Menovians’ suspicions, Wrenchard overheard them dispatch ‘Karl’ to the front to ‘check it out.’

Wrenchard knew he was caught. He didn’t want to leave poor Ida to the whims of these men, but he knew that he couldn’t defeat them all in a fight. With lightning speed he explored the few options available to him in his mind and decided on one. The war-hero moved along the outside of the house to where he knew the front door to be. He waited just around the corner from the front door, assuming that anyone emerging to inspect the perimeter of the building would inevitably turn around it and thusly directly into him. It was just then that he spotted Tyrus across the patchy dirt thoroughfare, squatted next to a building, short bow ready in hand. Tyrus nodded in Wrenchard’s direction and then towards the door, as he brought up an arrow to nock it in place. The cartographer heard the door open and with his left hand drew his cloak up over the lower half of his face, revealing only his eyes to shine in the dim cloud-obscured moonlight. He held his right hand aloft, poised at the ready, with one of his signature darts.


On the way to militia duty that evening Jonas wrote a note before leaving the house. In a simple scrawl it read only two words: ‘frum teyerus.’ He neatly folded the piece of parchment and stuffed it into an empty sack. As he passed through town, he grabbed the most savory, juiciest, freshest, fattest sheep patty that he could find and slopped it into the sack with the note. Passing by the cooper’s house, he methodically looked about. Secure in his relative privacy, he lobbed the sack up onto the roof – a good toss, right into the crook of the eaves – and continued to his nightly chore at the breach.

Arriving there, Harden had no trouble finding the man for duty. He stepped forward, a hand extended.

“Jonas, two nights in a row. There may be hope for you yet.” He sounded genuinely pleased, as opposed to the mocking which the Fawkes boy was used to from others.

“Well, it is my job.” Jonas replied accepting the shake. Motar barked out into the dark at the south end of the breach. Only two nights before, there was an attack in one of the cow byres there, and Gerald stared out into the darkness as if the hope before the encroaching doom. Jonas admired the view of the broad, bearded man and his enormous leashed hound, finding inspiration for a song.

“Yes it is.” Harden replied and clasped him about the shoulder, returning to where Gerald stood ever-vigilant, not mentioning the faint odor of refuse that he now wiped from his hand onto his trousers thigh.


It was over before Karl ever knew what happened.

As Wrenchard had predicted, the Menovian turned the corner right into him. The war-hero’s first dart fell off of Karl’s shield harmlessly. Still the man was unable to register the full scope of what was happening. Tyrus let loose with an arrow aimed directly at the man’s back. It went high. The young ranger stood and began to cross the clearing, flanking the warrior from behind. His second shot went slightly to the right, clear away from both men, but he was now closing the gap.

Karl noticed neither missed shot and was still attempting to focus on the veiled threat standing ten feet in front of him. He prepared to bring his half spear down too late. Wrenchard was faster, reaching for a second dart and launching it. It found home, lodging directly in Karl’s throat.

Blood sprayed the elder man’s mustache and shirt. Wordlessly, the Menovian fell forward. With the weight of the fall the dart was pushed through the back of the man’s neck, crushing his Osiris’ apple. Wrenchard backed up a step as a pool of blood began to well and collect from Karl’s gaping puncture wound. Tyrus crossed the open area to lean against the side of the house with Wrenchard. Both men stared down at Karl, bewildered.

It had only taken seconds, but now they had to act. They were returned to the present situation by another scream that emanated from inside the house. Apparently, no one missed Karl yet.

The conspirators grabbed the dead man’s arms and legs and hustled to the nearest abandoned house. Wrenchard wished that he’d picked up his failed dart but there was no time for that now. He had to think. This was just the sort of imbroglio that the savvy old war-vet had hoped to avoid. As Wrenchard concentrated on his options, Tyrus took it upon himself to state it most succinctly.

“We killed one. We’re in deep now…we’re in deep. We have to kill them all.”



(1) – Osiris is the god of nature and the judge of the dead.

(2) – Shu is one of the twin gods, a nature god, of air, sky, and avian creatures.

(3) – Tefnut is Shu’s twin. She is a nature goddess, of water.

(4) –Isis is the goddess of magic, the moon, love, family and fertility. The High Festival of Isis is celebrated on the 28th of Onk. This holiday is the most commonly celebrated one. Families throw parties to celebrate the coming year and to thank Isis for good fortune in the past year. People look forward to this with great anticipation . Families and friends exchange gifts at midnight and before dawn local priestesses of Isis leave gifts at the doors of certain households (usually poor ones), and everyone gives toys and sweets to children. No one works on the following day, which is full of day-long feasting (and sleeping off the previous night’s dancing and drinking).

(5) – Fatty Lumpkins is Van Feicht’s biggest, fattest ram. He has a large black spot over his left eye and ear that covers half of his head. This is Jonas’ choice sheep for finding prime patties worthy of lobbing onto the cooper’s roof.

(6) – Welcome Winter occurs on the 28th of Syet every year (which also happens to be the first day of the Great Fast of Ra). Priests of Set hold elaborate ceremonies that include drinking blood, sacrificing a fatted calf, drowning kittens and babies. Some common folk also sacrifice a calf this day to appease Apep.
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First Post
Great update!

I am very excited to see what happens with the Menovian Irregulars and their sweet-tongued guide. I like that the various characters have distinct fighting styles in addition to their various personalities. Tyrus's lack of tact with the guide was excellent. Can't wait for the next one.


We have to Kill them all . . .

I forgot how many great lines were said in that session. You are doing a great job of representing our characters on the page. just keep letting me know when the next one's up, budday.

"Black" Adair

First Post
Great Story Hour, Rastfar.

Can't wait for the fourth one.

"There are no Menovians in Kendrick! They are all outside the hamlet where we will crush them!"

Jonas Fawkes

First Post
Don't ya worry none. . . I'm gonna do my best to fix this awful mess they've gotten us into. . . As long as they follow my plan and can accurately count - we should be out of trouble in no time at all. . .

Epic Threats

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