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by Keith Haney
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Friday July 19th 1264 AD
PictureChristobol - Cristobol quickly worked to get the events of the last day into record.

Keeping a journal could be important in one’s future endeavors. Surely, the discoveries of this day’s important events warranted such attention. I began this Saturday as every other since being hired on as a peacekeeper of the town of Willowford. Checking in with the Prior Bevin and getting last minute instructions relating to the following day’s market.

On my way to find Brother Finch and Byrn, I thought I saw a woman bolting between the trees. However, my eyes must have been playing tricks on me, fore upon investigation, not a leaf had been disturbed. Still, there is a nagging that I have missed something of import here…..

I stumbled onto Brother Finch and Byrn attending to the body of Farmer Dawson. It was here I learned of the attack last eve on the road from Lonn. The slight stench of death permeated over the more pleasant bread smells. Brother Finch and Byrn were treating and sewing up the body in preparation for burial. After some discussion and a harmless ruse of which Brother Finch was the victim, Byrn and I set off to the Hamadryad Inn to see about the two visitors that survived the attack. After all, I needed to assess whether or not the newcomers would be causing any trouble. It was our idea to find the ranger Cael, somewhere in town, to see if she would accompany us to the Dawson homestead. After all, the news of Farmer Dawson’s death might be better received by the widow from a woman.

Upon arriving at the inn, Justine was in her usual place behind the bar and Darla and Jillette bouncing around, tending to the needs of the customers. Scanning the room, we spot the two survivors. One is named Michael. He seemed well on his way to swill oblivion but the other, calling himself Jim seemed to be at death’s door. He was oozing blood from a bite wound to the neck. How this man had survived is still a marvel to me. Yet, there he sat. We discussed the wolf attack at length. Why would only two wolves attack? According to Jim, they were not gaunt. He also believed it was a coordinated attack. Odd behavior, I thought. At this time, the sprite ranger Cael, decided to make her presence known in her usual fashion; telling me I was wrong; this time about the behavior of wolves. Wolves coordinate attacks.

She seemed preoccupied with Jim’s wound and attempted to apply a poultice on his wound. It even started to bleed again. This would not do. Byrn suggested we find Brother Finch to see if he could do anything better than slap cloth onto his neck. Provided he had not died as a result of the little prank, I thought it couldn’t hurt. As a group, we made our way back to the Priory. Brother Finch was no worse for wear, though a bit further along into the mead, I think. He took a good look at the wound and grasped his necklace charm. Slowly, yet effectively the wound closed and the lines of pain from Jim’s eyes receded. Other than his pallor, likely a result of blood loss, he seemed stout and wished to accompany us to the farmstead while he waited to get well enough to seek employ with the Master Builder.

We gathered our things, expecting to make a day of the travels. In this, we counted on Cael. It was her expertise that afforded us a shorter route to the farm through the forest. You could tell she is experienced in the lore, though she seemed agitated to have to wait for us. Ah well. It will do her good to learn to tolerate “normal” folk.

When we came into the clearing that looked down to the Dawson farm house, something was amiss. No smoke from the chimney, the shutters closed, the animals still in their pens, all is as it would have been the evening prior. Now, we brought our guard up and proceeded cautiously. Cael moved silently off through the woods to come upon the house from the rear. The rest of us, guarded down, directly towards the front door. It was my thought that we do this to give the illusion that we were unaware of anything being wrong.

Upon noticing the door ajar, all pretense of stealth was gone. I drew my trusty blade, more to feel better than to prepare for anything specific. The newcomer, Jim, thought he would be best suited to investigate the interior. So, Byrn watched outward and I watched inward as Jim began to look around. Cael came up as well, saying that nothing had been found. However, she mentioned a wayward track near the stream she spotted on the way here. At the time, she thought nothing of it, but now believes it may have something to do with the current situation. She described it as “ranger-like”. I guess that means it was light-footed and made of something other than a boot.

Jim came back out of the house. The evening prior’s meal was still on the table. A chair had been knocked over and flies buzzed the spoiling food. Upon looking at the floor, we discovered what appeared to be drag marks leading out of the house and towards the pasture fence. I thought this was odd, since there were no marking on the other side of the fence. Byrn noticed some sand and rose petals at the door. He mentioned that such things are components to magicks. Though of what type, he did not know. Slowly, a sense of helplessness wormed its way into my psyche. Thoughts of slavers, bandits, murderous wolves and dark magicks plagued of my thoughts. Yet, I managed to push them down to continue our investigation. After checking the barn and ensuring the animals would not starve we began a discussion on the way back to town. Could it be that someone or something has targeted this family? Is it a coincidence that the wolf attack and the likely time of attack on this homestead were at the same time?

Byrn believed he would be able to find something about those strange components at the door step of the Dawson’s home in the library at the Priory. We got back to town, making a brief stop at Ironside’s place to make him aware of what has transpired. He suggested bringing the Prior into the loop. Of course, I did not wish to interrupt his vespers. So, we returned Jim to the inn and Cael set up camp in the woods near the inn. Byrn went to the library while I went to find the Prior.

It was on that walk to vespers that I smelled something strange on the air. As if lightening had struck in the area, recently. But, Justine said there had been no rain or thunder today. Yet, I could not get the smell out of my mind. Then, I noticed a form, not far off the path, towards the Great Willow. When I got within torch light, I hastily drew my sword at the gruesome sight. A charred form lay in a heap on the ground, smoking as if it had been blasted by the tree itself. I took a quick look around only seeing tracks leading up from the river towards the base of the tree. No longer could I put the urgency of the day’s events on a slow-burner. I hollered back towards the inn, getting the attention of Cael and Jim. Soon after, Bryn joined us. He informed us that the rose petals and sand are components to a sleep spell. That would explain the drag marks. It also gave me some hope that the children and wife were yet alive. Cael also indicated that the tracks from the river to the Great Willow were those of the dead figure, though not the same as those near the Dawson farm. Thankfully, the rest of the inn was not in a curious mood this eve, fore I daresay that such a sight would create quite a stir, something that would not be good for our market day on the morrow.

We did not recognize the man-like form. Nothing was found around the area. However, amongst the many initials and such scribed into the trunk of the Great Willow were many strange rune-like symbols. I had never noticed them before and would not have paid them any attention again had not one of the runes on the tree looked to be as blackened as the form on the ground. I decided that enough was enough. It was time to bring Prior Bevin into what we had discovered, vespers or not. I hastily headed towards vespers to find them finished. I had forgotten to sheath my sword, a point that Prior Bevin could not have ignored. He saw the concern and urgency in my countenance and asked of it.

Once I filled him in on the day’s events and findings, he hurriedly followed me to the Great Willow. It was here he looked upon the area with his far-seeing eyes. He believes that the man-like form is something from the “Old Lore”. A Shee he called it. It was nearly seven feet tall with the features of an elf, yet rounded ears. Old is right! Such beings were said to have passed the realm of the world with the advent of man! The Prior further explained the basis for believing they had passed. Apparently, Shee pass their lore verbally through the generations. It is said that the race decided to pass beyond the veil of the realm when their lore was lost with the pre-mature passing of the elder responsible for this great knowledge. Yet, here one lies. Given what the Prior said about such beings, the fact that it lay, dead by some fell sorcery, caused me great concern. Were not these beings creatures of magic themselves?

We discussed briefly what to do about the dead body. The Prior said he would handle it. It was deemed best to not bring up this particular incident immediately to the folk of the town. We did not want to jeopardize tomorrow’s market. During the morning services, the Prior will make mention of the disappearances in the north wood region as well as the wolf attack to the attendees. Least that way, people will be more on guard and less likely to become unwary victims.

I pleaded a case with the Prior to get leave to investigate this more, believing we had a chance to find the missing children and widow. But, it will have to wait until after the morning market events. Always aware of my duties to the Prior, I do not protest. He is very wise. Surely we will not lose anything more by resting this night and preparing ourselves tomorrow. We break for our various evening arrangements.

I sit here, heavy in heart and eyelid. Perhaps as I make my rounds through the market after services, I will be able to garner some information from the vendors that have traveled from out of town. It is with this hope I lay my pen down and rest…

(to be continued)

 

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