The two littlelings from Carbaugh’s Keep are Tasso and Luna. They are very close and comfortable with each other but not, as I had first understood, brother and sister. They both are newly Followers of Orlando, and aspire to be warriors in that order. Carbaugh asked me to train and season them for a season or two before sending them back – but I wonder if he sent them because he sensed the great journey that lies ahead.
My friends – Boraen and Talvi and Einar, Fergus and Josef and Willie, Grel, and Wikton – rode up from Enonia on their way to see the Sisters. Tasso, Luna , and I had just finished lunch as the party came to Jakar’s Rest. Twyla, a dark and lovely dark human woman who’d been training me in dance fighting, asked to join us on the trip to Old Fawn. Twyla is an illusionist, just starting out and a bit naïve. If Belaldur still lives, surely her beauty and grace will draw him back.
In the waning days of Summer, then, we made our way to Old Fawn. Boraen greeted Nina and Grenwe, and he, Einar, Wikton, and Twyla went inside to inform them of Belaldur’s death, our quest, and our need for knowledge. Fergus, Josef, and Willie grazed the horses out front. We three littlelings went around back to view their garden, filled with unusual sculptures, to give them (and us) some privacy. Even though we’d shared my tent and bedroll on the way up, Tasso, Luna, and I had only just begun to get comfortable with each other. But over a jug of cider that afternoon, we made real progress!
Boarean and Twyla came out of the house, but Einar had stayed behind to learn from the Sisters. We’d need to wait in town for a few days to give Ninan and Grenwe the time to research the Dark Ones, the Swords, the letter and the Devils. Boraen allowed, too, that he was King of the Wolf Tribe, but he didn’t put on any airs.
We didn’t stay at the best inn – I’m wary of drawing too much attention. But the one we stayed at had a fine buffet for breakfast, free sandwiches for lunch, and a hearty dinner. We could make our other meals by snaring some rolls and fruit at breakfast, and sandwiches at lunch, so at least we would not go hungry on this silly human “three squares a day!”
Four days on, late in the afternoon, as I sat quietly drinking my cider and wondering what was in store for dinner, I heard a commotion in the street. I hopped from my booster seat – another reason to like this inn, booster seats! – and ran along the bench to the doorway, thinking there might be some opportunity in the confusion. And then I heard Twyla cry out in pain and alarm! Well, a new companion she might be, but still I would protect her!
Two men fought over Twyla, one snatching at her while the other cruelly gripped her arm. As I tried to slip through the crowd, I could see the malice in the eyes of both men. I remembered the pretty ladies who would come to my uncle’s shop, finding slightly frayed gowns and chipped jewels they could make into finery good enough to pass in the dim light of the evening. And the hard-faced pimps that would stop in the store, too, demanding their cut of the night’s take, scoffing at the bits of lace and velvet their girls were buying. And my uncle, oily and smarmy to the pimps and condescending to the ladies. Well, this was not going to be Twyla’s fate!
I leapt for the bully who held Twyla, figuring to distract him with a knife at his throat. And Wikton and Boraen, too, came to her aid. Wikton let his hammer fly and it smashed into the pimp’s skull just as my dagger touched his neck. The dagger slid between his sixth and seventh vertebrae – a mercy, really, as he’d have had a massive headache from the hammer. With one punch, Boraen had dispatched the other pimp. I checked their pouches for any signs of who these two were, then noticed a large ring on the finger of Twyla’s captor. The town guard showed up before I could cut it loose, though. Grel took Twyla back inside the inn; Wikton, Boraen, and I went to the town jail.
I shared out the sandwiches I had in my pouch, and Wikton amused us with tales of his earlier imprisonment and declared us to be comrades of the cellblock. The next morning, the town council fined us for the two murders, but set aside the fine to thank us for stopping Twyla’s kidnapping. Our companions welcomed us back, and we headed back to see the Sisters.
Ninan and Granwe told us of the Swords of Legend – one broken that needs special magic to repair, one lost in the Southron Duchy, one held in the Duchy of Elphast. These three swords must come together to defeat the Dark Ones. They told us, too, that the Demons and the Dark Ones are not the same – in fact, there are tales of demons helping a tribe break free from the domination of the Dark Ones, though this meant exchanging one set of masters for another. After much deliberation, our company decided to seek the sword in the Southron Duchy first , and we spent a day equipping ourselves as best we could. I found ponies for Tasso and Luna.
We reached Trubaugh the last day of Summer. This was where we’d rescued and restored some of the Damned, though there was still a field full of them, fenced in and the field abandoned. Mazlor had had some success curing the Damned here, and I’d thought his temple might have sent someone to continue his work. But not only are the Damned still afield, a new horror has blocked the villagers from tending their crops.
These beasts were like great leather bags, with a poisonous bite and claws. There were five, one much larger than the others. Grel called his magic steed to him, and rode high above the fields, looking for them. All five floated above the same field; as Grel hovered over them, the four smaller ones rose to meet him. Grel fired arrows at them but the wind kept him from hitting his targets. And they were on him!
Grel would have been in a bad state had he not turned to flee. As it is, one of the beasts ripped his shield off his back, and another bit his horse. Borean brought down the bag that had harried Grel’s horse; Luna and I bracketed the one gnashing on Grel’s shield. Beth took out another, and Josef and Fergus targeted the last of the small bags. Beth followed up with another arrow at long range, killing that final small monster.
Willie dropped his bow and scrambled for another weapon as he saw the boss bag burst from the wheat, scattering chaff and straw ahead of it. Josef went down with some in his eye. Twyla stepped forward then, and began undulating as she called forth dancing lights, in the form of a great glowing figure shaking its hips at the monster. The distraction worked – instead of attacking Willie and Josef, the great bag lunged for the illusion. I quickly cast entangle, tied it up in fast-growing wheat, and Wikton blinded the beast with a blast of light. A flurry of arrows and stones killed it quickly. Grel landed, and Boraen healed his horse.
The villagers were repulsed by the other-worldly creatures we had dispatched, and sang our praises as the conquerors of chaos. All a bit much, if you ask me, but they gleefully flung the carcasses into the field of the Damned, then prepared us a simple but filling dinner.
The first day of Autumn found us on the road again. In the afternoon, we passed by the ruined tower of Lady Emily, near Chendale, but we pressed on to reach the Abbey by evening. We called up to the Abbey, and Dame Heather sent us water and invited us to camp outside the Abbey walls.
We lunched at Ulichton the next day, and bought up what supplies we could. I picked up a couple of daggers, thinking to instruct Tasso and Luna in their use. We rode for Ennonia, and caught the tail end of the day’s market. We dropped quite a lot of coin there, and I made sure to get a good meal and a room for we three littlelings at the Militiaman and Bawd.
Riding out in the morning, we reached Draycott right at lunchtime and settled in to rest the horses before the long trek ahead. We had a good couple of meals and welcome. Willie and Josef’s kin made much of Fergus, and the talk of the town was how he’d made men out of a couple of ne’er-do-wells. I’ll get our tent set up, share out these berries I found in the bushes by the clearing, and go to bed with Tasso on one side and Luna on the other.