Jarod T.
Jan 31, 2018

Evermoore - December 2017 - Epilogue

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ISLE OF ASGARN, LANDS OF THE ANCIENT PATH

 

SUMMARY: Many tribes of the Ancient Path were ready for war. They wanted to swoop down and drive the Asgarns into the sea, to reclaim their island.

 

But they saw the nations of Shoria and Kell landing troops on the coast of Asgarn. They also heard that Holt did not hold up their end of the bargain in destroying the Asgarn army on the continent. Further, Ancient Path Guildsmen from Evermoore came to the Island of Asgarn and spoke out against the attack (see player prologue). Additionally, there is a potential for a reunification of the Northern Confederation and shifting political alliances in the Five Kingdoms. The Ancient Path were also told of valuable gold deposits on their lands. The shiny metal is very important to outsiders.

 

Together this was enough to stop the planned attack for the foreseeable future (The decision to attack or not was determined by a dice roll with assigned percentages giving weight to the above and other considerations based directly on the actions and inactions of players.).

 

The ancient path army is melting away leaving Vynira, the priestess and her son, Vicaryl, a great war leader, bitter, angry, and seeking revenge.

 

Vynira says, “We shall go to Evermoore and deal with these Guildmasters and others who have prevented our rise to greatness, but only after visiting Holt and dealing with King Justin's betrayal.”

 

DRAMATIZATION: This dramatization will be completed after 2018 rules update.

Jarod T.
Jan 31, 2018

AIDEN SKALGI LEADS THE ASGARNS OUT OF THE MOUNTAINS

 

SUMMARY: King Skalgi leads his Asgarn raiders out of the mountains and the armies of the Five Kingdoms move aside to let him pass. They begin travelling through the Dale, rushing toward the coast in order to bring their army home in time to defend the Asgarn Civilians from the impending Ancient Path attack. The Holt army is shadowing their movement. All the other Five Kingdoms armies have withdrawn save for the Dale which has fortified towns along the route of march, just in case there is trouble.

 

DRAMATIZATION: The dramatization will be completed after 2018 rules update.

 

Jarod T.
Jan 31, 2018

ISLE OF ASGARN

 

SUMMARY: The troops of Shoria and Kell land on the Isle of Asgarn bolstering the Asgarn civilian militia that had been hastily formed from people desperate to defend their homes from the impending Ancient Path attack.

 

DRAMATIZATION: The dramatization will be completed after 2018 rules update.

Jarod T.
Jan 31, 2018

PLAYER EPILOGUE Master Eric Trayce and Master Pandora Trayce, Played by Dominic Ciarrocchi and Jennifer Gershkowitz

 

Pandora was wrapping the last of the goods in the kitchen as Eric was outside making sure the rest of the packages were secured to the several large carts. The past few weeks they had been securing supplies from the manor to bring to the Protectorate. Pandora had been preparing a traditional Elven Yule feast as Eric gathered building supplies as well as food goods. The empowered beasts all pitched in gathering and supplying what they could.

 

The youngest Trayce played outside with a young pup as Eric kept a watchful glance here and there. Out from the hen house came Rotfoot the goblin, the only other being who lived at the estate. Pandora had met him on the battlefield one market day. He didn't want to fight and was being forced to by the Orcs there. She had pulled him from the field and offered him a life of safety and peace in exchange for his service. Rotfoot was happy to take the offer and stayed at Trayce manor since. Earning pay as he helped everything run smoothly around the manor.

 

Rotfoot approached Eric. “One more batch of Master Trayce” he said as he handed the crate to Eric. “Thank you Rotfoot. The Protectorate can really use all we can give.”

 

Pandora came out from the main house with her large basket in tow. Eric made her way to her and took the basket from her “This is the last of the meal.” She told him as he smelled the baked goods. “ Smells great.” He replied. Pandora tapped her satchel. “I made extra for us to eat one the way there.” Eric smiled and kissed her cheek. “Thank you.”

 

Pandora turned to Rotfoot “Please make sure all the creatures are fed and cores are completed. Also have the guards do extra rounds while we're gone.”

 

“Yes Mistress. Have safe travels.” Replied Rotfoot.

 

Eric lifted Hunter into the head cart with Pandora. He took the reins as they headed to the Protectorate. Pandora waved goodbye. Hunter settled into his mothers lap to nap. Pandora bundled him up as she stared lovingly at him. Her smile slowly faded as she thought. She then turned to Eric.

 

“It’s Yule and so many there have such great loss, how can there be joy in such time of grief?”

Eric took a moment then spoke “There is joy with the grief. Keeping traditions and our memories of those gone, warms as well as pains our hearts. We will come together as a community, as a people, and carry on with love and caring. That is the joy and warmth we will share this Yule.”

 

Pandora stared at him and placed her head on his shoulder as he placed his arm around her. The small family quietly huddled together continued on to the Protectorate.

Jarod T.
Jan 31, 2018

Player Epilogue. Sir Ademar. Christopher Diehl

 

Groenspeer Castle, 10 Miles northeast of Evermoore, a few days after the Market Day

Sir Adhemar had a map set on his desk. It was a detailed map of the area east of Evermoore, including Cross Tower Keep and the Ringfort. Being a detailed map, it included illustrations of terrain, such as woods, hills, farmland, creeks and ponds. It also included the locations of a few dozen villages too small to include on the larger map of the Valley of Rainbows. On the desk were also pens of various colors and measuring tools such as a ruler, a compass and protractor. The map now had several newly-added locations.

 

For the first few days since returning to Groenspeer, Adhemar received a steady stream of soldiers from his order. People of many different cultures, but all lightly equipped and wearing spurs, these were his scouts, bringing reports of villages their units had located. Each note contained a precise description of the location, allowing him to mark it on the map. Those that had names were noted, but many were simply assigned a number. Before they left, he wrote out orders directing the scouts on which direction to travel next. Nearly all of the villages they located were inhabited by Shorians. He had moved a few hundred troops, known as Preservers, to Fort Berangar, sitting near the center of the map, between Cross Tower Keep and the Ringfort. Their assignment was to hold off the Eldinites harassing the Shorians while looking for assassins. While the regular troops defended the villages, Adhemar would go to each village with some of his guards, and make each an offer. He would share the cost of providing them with arms, and would train their people to defend their village. His order would help, but they would learn to protect themselves, so they would no longer be a target for others.

 

From time to time, his mana mirror would vibrate and make noise, and Adhemar would pick up. In nearly every case, it was an officer of his order reporting the arrival of his troops at an assigned location. He would then direct the officers either to send Teams of five Preservers to particular villages, or to put Teams on patrol between villages to watch for the Eldinites and try to delay or dissuade them. Suddenly, the usual sounds of the castle compound changed. Troops from Fort Waleran, near the Elven Protectorate, had stopped on the way to Berangar, and they brought news. Adhemar knew what they were telling people. Officers from Waleran had called him over the mana mirror a few days before to inform him of Alexander, the former Toy Maker's death. They had left after he gave orders to keep the matter quiet, and now it was too late.

 

Servants, crowds of soldiers, visitors from various places, all heard the word of how Alexander was murdered by yet another evil cult, one devoted to ruining Yule. Grown men and women, Preservers who fought in the Eastern Pass against Gunther, the Elven Protectorate against Sven, in so many places against so many foes, were either crying like children or screaming. A crowd formed under his window, and another formed at his front steps. Guards had to hold back the growing throng. The scouts leaving to deliver the next set of orders turned to Sir Adhemar, Before they could ask the question, he told them. "It is true. Alexander Smith is dead, killed by Misfit, whatever they may be. He is dead, but there are still Shorians who may join him soon if you do not go and do your duty. Get moving." At the sacred word, Duty, the scouts shook off their feelings, dashed down to the front door, and jumped over the porch railings to get around the crowd and head for the stable.

Adhemar went out the front door of his home. The guards parted and the crowds quieted down. Everyone except those guarding the wall and gates gathered. He touched his mana mirror to call up all the other forts, to send them what he was about to say.

 

"You have all heard that Alexander Smith has been murdered. He was killed in his own home, in his bed, by a gang of insane cultists who despise Yule. They want to make Yule, a holiday we have celebrated since the Crystal City was built, into a day of pain and fear. They want to take our joy from us because they feel none. We will never let them do it. We can defeat them without a sword or an arrow. First, I am sending all the remaining scouting parties at Forts Amalwin and Waleran north to search the area near Toyland for Misfit. Second, I am sending troops to defend the roads into Toyland, from a distance. Let us not make the Toy Maker or her people scared. Finally, all of you will go out for the next few days, visit all the villages and towns we can reach, and tell them that Yule is a day of happiness for the Realm, and nobody will take that happiness away. The funeral of Alexander is to take place in Toyland on this Sunday, and I want all of you who are not on duty that day to come with me to it."

 

After a few minutes of applause, the crowd got back to their work. Adhemar walked back inside, and soon after, the people at all the other forts around the Valley of Rainbows heard the same message.

______________________________________

Outside Toyland, Sunday the 24th

About half a mile from the southern entrance to Toyland, the scouts and soldiers of the Preservers of the Chalice were taking down the temporary camp they had made. As they worked, sentries heard a noise approaching them, coming up the road they had defended. It quickly turned out that the noise was a small crowd of people. It was their families, rushing down the ridge and into the remains of the camp. All of them were carrying toys that belonged to each soldier, as well as their own.

 

A little while later, Sir Adhemar rode his crow to the entrance of Toyland, flanked by standard bearers carrying the blue and red banner of his order, and the black and green banner of his army. The Preservers marched or rode behind him, divided into companies, and each followed by a small crowd of Commoner civilians. They were the Preservers' families, as well as Adhemar's servants and the workers in his businesses, and their families. Several wagons rolled with them. Some were empty and some filled with barrels and boxes. The engineers brought exactly five catapults along, with five bursting stones apiece.

 

At the gate, the entire throng stopped. The empty wagons rolled next to the troops, who put the larger weapons and their shields onto them. Then, they all got out toys. The horse and crow riders all dismounted and led their mounts. Every soldier and civilian, man, woman and child, carried toys made by Alexander into Toyland. A large Asgarn carried a bear with a red Kringle hat, that when hugged, would say "Merry Yule Everybody!" A small Weetle carried a snowglobe with a Yule tree and a raccoon in it, with a music box in its base. A Low Elf carried a different bear, one that, when squeezed, would close its arms around him. Sir Adhemar carried a toy catapult with a stone attached to the arm by a string. As they walked through the gate, they all began to sing. The song they sang was very simple and many words were nonsensical, but two passages stood out.

"Yule day is in our grasp, as long as we have hands to clasp."

"Yule day will always be, just as long as we have we."

 

They sang that song all the way to the spot where Alexander's funeral would occur. Once the funeral was over, all of them began to cheer. Half the people cheered to cover that they were in tears. At that moment, the engineers loaded and fired all twenty-five bursting stones into the air as a salute. Afterward, they took the boxes and barrels from the wagons. These were the food and drink they brought, because nobody expected so many of them to arrive. For hours, they ate, drank, danced together, played with the toys they brought, and sang every Yule song they could think of to sing. After it was all over, and time to return home, they reloaded what was left onto the wagons. The Preservers gathered up their weapons and shields, and all marched away, happy that they would end the year with one more victory.

New Posts
  • Jarod T.
    Feb 21, 2018

    PHILOSOPHER PO QUAY, EVERMOORE SUMMARY: Po sends a group of angry Shorians home and reaches out to the guildsmen of Evermoore to patrol the roads around the Ring Fort to try and deter the Stick-Killer from striking again. DRAMATIZATION: The mob of angry Shorians surged forward. Their leader was a big man, dressed in a fur-rimmed conical hat, a fur vest, and deer hide breeches held up by a belt of flat metal disks. He was from the steppes of Shoria and carried a large heavy curved sword with jingling rings set into the back edge. The others in the mob were Shorians from the northern coast wearing cloth jackets held closed with little knotted ties and Shorians from the southern coast wearing their jackets held closed by sashes around the waist. All were armed with make-shift weapons, mostly farming implements. Po Quay stood in their path and raised both hands. For a long moment he thought the mob of angry Shorians would try and push past him, perhaps even trample him in their frustration, but at the last moment they yielded, stopping an arms distance from him. “We are hunting the Stick-Killer!” shouted the man in front. “The murderers of our people must be found!” Other voices cried out in support. ‘What good will your anger do?” Po raised his hands to try and quiet them. “You are a mob who will do violence to anyone you find in these woods.” “We must do something,” shouted a woman from back. “Your anger is righteous,” Po told them, “but it is not productive.” The murders had started a month ago, Shorians and Asgarns killed on the road, by a maniac who left sticks at the scene of the crime. The bodies were beaten to death and horribly mutilated. Investigations revealed little. The killer or killers had wiped away any forensic evidence of their identity with swishing branches. The only clues were the sticks and the violence of the scene. “You will not find anything wandering these woods as you are.” “The land around the ring fort belongs to the Northern Confederation,” the big man looked down at Po. “We are going to question travelers.” “You do not need clubs, pitch forks, and axe handles to speak.” Po met their eyes, one by one. “We do if we meet the Stick-Killer,” boasted the big man. “You’ll never meet the Stick-Killer,” countered Po. “We have a right to patrol.” A small man stepped to the front of the group and addressed the big man. “Peng, Philosopher Po is right. We are doing no good out here, blundering down these trails. The killers will see or hear us coming and move into the shadows.” “Shut your coward mouth, Xing,” Peng raised a meaty fist. Xing was not intimidated. “Your anger is more than justified. Peng, your brother was among the slain. We all feel his loss, but truly, the only people we will find out here will be innocent travelers. We will accost innocent people to no purpose. While we are out here, our families are in danger.” “Xing has the right of it. Go home to your families,” said Po. “The guildsmen of Evermoore will be patrolling your roads. While you are out here uselessly wandering, your families are undefended. Protect them and leave the hunting of the Stick-Killers to the guildsmen of Evermoore.” “Let us all go home,” Xing implored them. “We can protect those who we love and let the guildsmen handle the roads.” Peng looked around him. Already his support was fading away. “Philosopher.” He spoke the word like a curse. “You talk overly much. Those of us who want action have sent for the Oathbound. There have not been Oathbound in Evermoore in many years so others think us easy prey. That will change when the Oathbound arrive.” Peng and the others left. Xing remained behind to confide in Po. “Peng is a sore man, but he speaks the truth. The Oathbound will not allow our people to be killed without an answer. They will demand blood for blood. Whoever did this will pay dearly when the Oathbound arrive with their retinues of honor and glory.” Po knew Xing spoke the truth. Though the Oathbound were honorable men and women, they took honor very serious. Their whole lives revolved around their oaths of service to a person or sometimes a cause. There were not as many Oathbound in Shoria today as their once were, but there are enough to make them a force in their society. Those who remained carried on a heritage established in the Age of Life. Their lore is steeped in mysticism and the people of Shoria idolize them. They wear colorful armor of cloth, cord, and laminate and carry two special swords pushed through a belt tied at their waist. The Oathbound would be hard to handle, but they could be managed so long as their honor was not offended. The real problem would be the Oathbroken. These are men and women with broken oaths coming for a chance to atone for their dishonor. They will come to Evermoore as well, following on the heels of the Oathbound, seeking to end their disgrace by doing some act of glory. Many Oathbroken are drunkards and criminals who have fallen far from the honor they once held. They are an uncontrolled, desperate element of Shorian society. “Perhaps we will be able to have the situation in hand by the time they arrive,” Po said. “That would be best.” Xing agreed. “You had best go home.” Po bowed to Xing who returned honor and withdrew, rushing home to his family. Po pulled his mana mirror from the pocket of his pants and began typing out a message, “Guildsmen of Evermoore. I spoke with many of you last market day and you promised to help patrol around the ring fort to protect the Shorian and Asgarn who live in the area. I would like to coordinate our efforts. If you will be spending the time between this market patrolling, please send me a message on this thread.” “I know many of you are already busy. Groups are researching the sticks to try and find out as much as possible about the Stick-Killer from academic sources. Others are dealing with the Karthydian problem, examining the maps discovered during the Sunday morning raid into the Tar Field in order to determine the locations of the nodes the Karthdyians will be trying to convert to Chaos. These task are very important and will likely require your full effort, but there were over 100 guildsmen at the last market and at least a dozen of you promised to help me.” “Guildmasters not researching the sticks or examining the map, gather your guilds and bring them to patrol. Those of you who have military orders, please assemble them. We may not stop every attack, but we can try. Guildsmen assemble!” [Out-of-Play Note: If you want your character to participate in the guarding of the roads around the Ring Fort send Philosopher Po a real-time, in-play message on this thread and your character can then roleplay at the event that you spent the intervening time protecting Shorians and Asgarns. The number of Guildsmen "patrolling" will affect the number of attacks that occur between the events so your between event activity will have a direct relation to your world.]
  • Jarod T.
    Feb 21, 2018

    February 2018 | Epilogue (4 Febris 1018 Sunday) “You WILL help and get them,” Shannon [ Kathleen Burns ] looked defiantly into Sabine’s eyes. The merriment of the Dance of Colors whirled around them. Sabine’s stomach turned. “Yes… I will,” she replied. Xanatos [ Alex Pertgen ] laid a kind hand on Sabine’s arm. “I’ll come with you.” He was instrumental in her freedom from Ionnes’s possession and was one of her biggest advocates. This consoled her. “And you have my help, as well, if you want it,” said a familiar voice from behind her. It was Rex [ Mark Ion ], another generous Guildsmen responsible for her return. “Hey! What are we doing?!” Piped up the cheery, musical voice of Tristan [ Robert Park ]. “Dance of Colors after-party? ...Xanadite style?” The tension roiling between Sabine and Shannon subsided for a moment as they both smiled at his suggestion. Shannon cleared her throat and regained her serious tone, “We’re freeing the remaining Tradesmen of the fight pits who are still imprisoned. Sabine has agreed to guide us there. We leave tomorrow afternoon.” Tristan nodded, “I’m in.” And so the plans were set. And their mission was clear. But that night Sabine didn’t sleep. Was it the silence? Ionnes’s furious voice was no longer filling up her mind for the first time in 6 months. He knew everything about her since he had been pretending to be her for so long. He had access to every memory, every fear, every dark corner of her, and even the food she liked and her favorite song. Was it wrong to say she… missed being so known? “No! No! No!” Guilt, shame, remorse; wash, rinse, repeat. The morning came and she rose out of duty, ready to begin her first day of atonement. Sabine stood in front of the Roasted Dragon Inn, waiting for Shannon, Xanatos, Rex, and Tristan as they said goodbye to their comrades gathering into their caravans to leave the Market Day. She absent-mindedly kicked the gravel to distract herself from her nerves. Knowing she’d soon look into the faces of those she had hurt… she kicked and kicked and kicked the stones. “Um… what are you doing?” A gentle, inquisitive voice asked. Sabine looked up and saw Lydia [ Valerie Fairchild ]… but it was Wisteria who looked back at her with a puzzled look on her face. “I’m, I…the rocks…” Sabine stammered lamely, caught off guard. Not a moment too soon, her party arrived. The three gentlemen greeted her with a smile, while Shannon frowned, all business. “Lead the way,” she said. “I’d like Lydi--Wisteria to come,” Sabine said. “Of course, we could always use more Guildsmen to free the imprisoned,” replied Shannon, “You alright to join us, Wisteria?” Wisteria nodded, still giving Sabine a curious, searching look. The party of 6 started on their journey into the Forlornes. Along the way to pass the time, the group started a discussion about what it means to be a Xanadite. “Well, of course Xanadites have more fun--” laughed Tristan. Xanatos shared his experiences when it came to worship, and even had Sabine blushing. Shannon recalled one version of Xanadu’s creation story, “As the story goes, Noctis sacrificed himself for the creation of Xanadu so that brother would not turn against brother, and that the Age of Order would last for eternity.” Rex, though not a Xanadite like his other 5 companions, showed a lively interest in the lore. Lydia--Wisteria--remained in silent rumination. For the most part their journey was undeterred, though they did encounter the occasional hungry Cold beast. Finally, after weaving through miles of densely grown trees, Sabine stopped at a cave. They were standing in a deeply forested area, so canvased with tall, old evergreens that it made their midday journey appear like a shadowy twilight. “Here we are,” said Sabine, beginning to unlatch a ring of keys from her belt. Her hands shook. The unusually night-like afternoon and the chill in the air sent a eerie tingle down everyone’s spine. Rex lit a lantern, and the party entered the dark cave. Something was wrong. Whenever Ionnes had possessed Sabine to come here, the pleading, tired voices of the prisoners was the first thing she heard. She waited for those voices, their curses, their prayers. In a panic, she stole the lantern from Rex’s hand and ran ahead with it to the captured Tradesmen’s cells. The warm light of the lantern cast down onto empty cells, doors swung open. Sabine’s eyes widened and she fell to her knees on the earthen floor. The rest of the party caught up to her and examined the dozen empty cells. “Where are they?” Asked Shannon. “I don’t know…” Sabine replied softly. Shannon saw the devastated look on Sabine’s face and asked gently, “Are they somewhere else? Do you have more holding cells? Who else knew about them?” Sabine replied, “No more cells, I’m sorry, I don’t know…” she stared with unfocused eyes at the cell before her. “Could this help?” Lydia/Wisteria’s gentle voice chimed in from the dark. She walked over to Sabine and held out a note. “It was tied to a cell.” Illuminated under the lantern light, Xanatos crouched down next to Sabine and read the note aloud: [Attached as Image] Shannon was the first to speak, “Freya [ Kat A Lindia ]… I helped to dispel her subservience last night. She inspired me to come here with you, to save these Tradesmen.” Sabine still seemed to be in a daze. Xanatos spoke up in the dark cave, his words almost haunting, “She wasn’t looking for reconciliation when you dispelled her, Shannon. She was looking for revenge.” Shannon’s matter-of-fact response rang in Sabine’s ears: “Yeah, pretty obvious. She said she wanted to kill Sabine…”
  • Jarod T.
    Feb 2, 2018

    Aiden Skalgi Isle of Asgarn 1 Febris 1018 A.Order The long ship with the red dragon prow was still sliding along the dock when Aiden Skalgi leapt over the rail. He landed on the wooden planks and pushed through the crowd, hurrying toward the shore. His guardsmen followed him, one falling, the others cursing as they tried to keep up with him. Aiden laughed. It was good to be home. He passed a group of soldiers from Shorian and Kell. He paused to thank them for coming to protect his people. A Shorian officer saluted him. Instead of returning the salute, he clapped the man on his shoulder and told him to come by the great hall. “There will be celebration tonight.” Aiden knew where he would find his family. They would be far from the docks, likely outside of the city, gathered in a camp with others from their town. Poor folk from the outlying communities didn’t have money to purchase rooms in town, so he headed out of the city with his guardsmen trotting behind him. His old friend, Gistav, had picked the guards, all young axmen from noble families wanting to become great through association with him. He did not know them well, but there would be time to win them over and ensure their loyalty. If not, Gistav intended to use them as hostages against their fathers should any raise their axes against Aiden’s claim. None of that was important right now. The only thing that mattered to him was finding his family. He asked directions at the first ramshackle camp he found and was told where to find the people from his village. He could no longer jog. The pace was not fast enough. He broke into a run. He crested a hill and saw a familiar tent. He recognized faces, people from his village. He hollered down to them and his run became a sprint. A few people looked in his direction. His guardsmen hurried to keep pace, some of them falling back. He didn’t care. Thora, his wife, stepped from the tent. She brushed a strand of hair out of her face, looking around to see what the commotion was. Then, her eyes met his. She started to run. They met on the road. Embracing. Kissing. She held his cheeks. “Don’t ever leave again!” she told him. “I won’t,” he promised. His son, Arvid, reached them and wrapped his arms around them both. “Father,” he cried. There were tears on the boys face, but Aiden did not chastise him for being weak, as he generally did. The boy would never be a fighter and that was all right. He had decided that if Arvid wanted to be a scholar, then he would send the boy to Guildhall. Aiden looked toward the tent. His daughter Disa was limping toward them on her twisted leg, carrying a practice shield and wooden sword. After a short distance, she dropped them in the road in order to hurry. Disa wanted to be a shield maiden, so she would never cry in front of him. He could see the emotion in her face as he embraced her. She was his favorite. His tough little girl, crippled at birth by the gods so cruel, but never giving up on her dream. His family stood together, holding each other for a long time. The fighting men and women of their village started to trickle in. Other families joined in happy reunions, knots of laughter along the road. A few would not be returning and he heard the grief stricken wails. Their sorrow cut him deeply, but he pushed it away. It was not his fault. He had forced no man or woman to accompany him on the raid to the Dale. They had come on Gunther’s promise of riches and died for that mad fool’s greed. Aiden had picked up the pieces and brought them all home. If not for him and the Guildsmen of Evermoore, they’d still be killing and dying their way across the Dale. “Let’s go home,” Thora said to him, she looked longingly toward the high mountains, far inland from the coast. Towards the village he had once ruled. It had been a poor place and he had no wish to return there. “To our drafty house?” he asked her with a grin. “To our farm of rocks?” She would not meet his eyes. “Let’s just go home and make do,” she said at last. “Arvin?” asked Aiden. “What about you wanting to be a scholar.” The young man shook his head. “I’ll help on the farm. You and mother can’t do it alone.” “Let’s go home father,” said Disa. “I can practice sword and shield anywhere. I’m ready for you to teach me some more of your tricks.” “I am sure you are.” He tussled her hair. She dodged away, stumbling slightly on her leg. A stumble like that in a real fight would mean her death. “I practice every day,” she insisted. “She does,” affirmed Thora, but there was a sadness in her voice because she knew that a crippled girl would never be a shield maiden. She would never pass the tests, and if she did, death would find her quickly. “Then let’s go home,” he told them, smiling large to hide his concern. They gathered their things. Aiden helped them, stuffing threadbare blankets, an old pot, five chipped plates, and mis-matched flatware into one sack. Some worn clothes went into the other. The bedding was tied into bundles and soon they stood in front of their tent. Arvin and Disa moved to take it down. “Leave it,” Aiden told them. “Let’s go home.” He started walking back toward the city. His family did not follow. “Come along,” he motioned. “Father,” said Disa, laughing. “Our house is that way.” “No,” Aiden said firmly. “In that direction was the place where four of my children starved, sickened, and died. Our home is this way.” Thora sighed, shook her head. “Aiden,” she said in the voice she used when he carried a joke too far. “We are done with raiding. You were right. Let’s just go home. Children take down the tent.” Arvin and Disa pulled out the stakes and the cloth fell in on itself. Aiden crossed his arms and waited as the children worked. Gistav walked up with another group of raiders returning to their loved ones. Gistav had never married. He always said, ‘why have one woman when you can have many.’ He was Aiden’s oldest friend. His house was down the street from theirs. He was a carpenter by trade, but fancied himself a bard. He’d spend so much time with Aiden and his family that Thora often remarked he was like another child for her to care for. “Thanks for waiting on the docks,” grumbled Gistav. The large man was out of breath. “I bet you ran the whole way.” “I did,” Aiden replied. “I guess I would have run too if I had Thora to come back to.” Gistav laughed loudly at his joke. “Hello Thora.” “I’m glad you’re not dead.” Thora told him. “What are they doing?” asked Gistav, pointing to the children. “Packing our tent,” Aiden shrugged. “I see that,” Gistav shook his head. “But why?” “My wife told them too. They always listen to her more than they listen me.” The people in the village were beginning to gather around them. Strange looks of awe on their faces. Some were talking to Aiden’s guardsmen. Others were gesturing toward Aiden and looking back to the town. “Children,” said Gistav. “Come over here.” “We are working,” Disa said, indignantly folding the tent. They never listened to Gistav. Gistav walked over and stepped on the cloth. “You don’t need this old tent.” Disa stood up. “You’re in the way.” Her voice was cross, but she was not angry. Gistav always teased her. “We need that tent to get home.” She pushed his ample belly, but he did not move. “You are home child,” Gistav told her. “Look there.” He pointed to the high house on the hill overlooking the town, dead king Harjen’s Hall with its beautiful woodwork and magnificent views. “That is where you live now. Your father is our King.”

2017 by Mystic Realms, LTD.

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