Thursday, May 24, 2018

“Fly By Night” - A Tale of Heroes - Scene 34: Granthurg

“Thurg!” a sharp voice hissed through the night on the wharf. “Thurg!” it sounded again, louder.

Granthurg was sitting at one of the tables on the wharf, studying scrolls by lanternlight. He looked up, then turned toward the voice.  “Rinkmorr?”

“Hush! Come over here! Leave the Lantern”

Granthurg stood and stepped out of the circle of light around the table. His face, now obscured in shadow was furrowed and confused. “Where are you? What are you--”

“Quiet, boy! This is critical.” Granthurg could barely make out the massive form and familiar face of Rinkmorr hiding behind some large covered crates on the wharf. Before he could speak, Rinkmorr interjected, “Who’s that down on the barge?”

“Passengers. I’ve been excited to tell you. I’ve booked passengers! They’ve paid half up front, like you always--”

“I thought I told you to get rid of the elf girl.”

“She’s paid her fare in full!” Granthurg was quite pleased with himself. “In gold! The others just booked on board, too. They’re all going west, up the Lesser Wynne River. I told them we could get sailing really soon, as soon as you get new cargo!” He held up a small pouch and jingled it. Rinkmorr took it and hefted it before pocketing it.

“Yeah, well never mind that. West, huh? Well, west is good!”

“West is Best!” Rinkmorr rolled his eyes at Granthurg chanting the old Riverman’s adage. Going west usually meant going home.

“Thurg! Listen to me, and listen close.” He reached out and grabbed Granthurg’s shoulders and held him looking forward, into Rinkmorr’s worried eyes. “I need you to do something important. I need you to take the barge and float it tonight. Upriver, west will be perfect, now that I think of it. Drive it right away.” He paused, and looked behind him.

“But we have no cargo! We have few supplies!”

“That doesn’t matter. Just take it tonight.”

“Wait. Does that mean you won’t be on board?”

“You wanted a chance to be a riverman, now you can be! Take it all the way up to Umbramire port and wait for me there.”

Granthurg was shocked and confused. “What’s happening? What’s the rush? Are you in trouble?”

Rinkmorr’s silence confirmed this. “What did you do!”

“I owe some people some money, that’s all. Nothing you have to concern yourself about. It’s just that some people might come to collect by taking something I have, and I need it to be gone. That’s why you have to leave right away.”

“Did you lose the barge throwing lots?”

“That’s not your concern. But no. Now, get out of here!”  Rinkmorr was already moving away.

Granthurg followed him for a few steps “I don’t know how to drive the barge upriver! I don’t know the magic!”

“Get your girlfriend to figure it out! The oculus is in the stern. Now get out of here before they see me! Don’t let me down!”

“Rinkmorr!” But the elder giant had already slipped away in the darkness. Well, he’s got some nerve! What do I do now? Granthurg stood, trying to see across the wharf. Finally, he returned to his scrolls and rolled them into his carrying pouch.

And she’s not my girlfriend, either...


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Monday, May 21, 2018

“Lost and Found” - A Tale of Heroes - Scene 33: Karendle

By the time she was tired of looking for her quarry, the sun was hanging a bit low, tinting the buildings tops of the InnerWall with orange.

The night before, she had seen them escape the guard tower, and even managed to knock them to their knees with an ill-planned explosion of magical power from her oculus. That woke the soldiers on guard as well as the neighborhood. She tried to rush off after the two fugitives, but the soldiers saw her move and began to pursue her, instead. This was only made worse by the people who heard the bang and came running out of pubs and homes to see what was going on.

In the unfamiliar city, it hadn’t been easy for her to lose them. Fortunately, there were many roads and alleys for her to disappear into. She spent the night in fitful sleep under awnings and behind storage barrels, waking and moving frequently.

As the morning sun was starting to show a faint glow in the sky, she finally found a stable with a pile of straw and sank into exhausted slumber.

She awoke just before midday, and slid back out into the street. It was busy enough and she managed to blend her way along, still avoiding any contact with soldiers or constables.

After a meal in an inn, she had wondered what her next step was. She could keep searching for them, or try to find another wizard to capture. For now, she decided to resume her search. It was difficult at first to find the same guard tower, and, after following the direction of their flight into the city, it became clear that she had lost any real chance of finding them.

Still, she had spent the afternoon wandering the the streets of the InnerWall and finally found herself on the northern wharfs of the RiverFront.

By that time, it was getting to be early evening, and she sat down on a public bench, weary and needing a rest.

This is much harder than I thought. There are so many ways for someone to vanish. I’m quite hungry as well, but I need to be careful with my coin. She opened up her purse and reached in, shifting the oculi aside to find a few gold pieces remaining. I guess I’ll be OK. I just want to bring back a wizard. I want to make this happen!

As the sun began to lower, she stood and walked upriver only casually glancing around her. A fried fish at a pub here on the river would be pretty nice, right about now.

As she stepped toward a pub she walked past a couple of open air table of giants, river runners and barge steersmen, talking and sharing ale. While most were talking among themselves, a few were talking with others, non-giants. As she passed she could hear them talking about cargo rates and passenger fares. A lady seemed to be booking passage to the west.

She walked on, then paused. That woman’s voice. I’ve heard it before. Karendle turned to look back at the table. One of the giants, bulky, with a shaved head and a vest, was walking down the pier toward the barges. With him walked a man in white soldier’s livery, with a diminutive woman in a black cloak. In an instant, she recognized them. That's her! I can't believe my luck!

She quickly reached for her purse, and rushed back. Before she got to the table, she paused. Oh no. There are a lot of people here. I'm not making the same mistake twice!

She watched as they all boarded one of the barges. I'll just take my time and watch. Maybe tonight the situation will be better.

She backed away and found a small barrel to sit on, and waited.


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Thursday, May 17, 2018

“Back at The Chapel” - A Tale of Heroes - Scene 32: DeFrantis

DeFrantis threw open the door behind the altar in the small chapel and began scattering the small boxes and other debris stored there.  She pushed blankets and old sacramental robes aside until she cleared a corner of the bare floor. She looked at the tiles for a moment, trying to remember which one held her prize.

Antonerri came in behind her. “What are you doing?”

She ignored him, but simply began tapping lightly on the floor tiles. At random, at first, but then, when she got no results, she started on one side and methodically moved from one to another.

“I’ve figured some things out in the few days I’ve known you, but if you want my help, it might be useful to tell me what’s going on.”

“You don’t need to come with me.” She said, in a brusque tone. “They are in grave danger and they need me.”

“Who are ‘they’? What are you looking for?” He stepped forward.  In that moment, she started clawing at a dusty tile, but she couldn’t get under it.

She grunted in frustration, then looked around. Seeing Antonerri standing near, she said, “Give me your sword!” She held out her hand.

He flipped it around, holding it carefully by the blade, and placing the hilt into her open palm. She grabbed it and, using both hands, easily wedged it under the tile and pulled it up. She flipped it aside, revealing a hole underneath. Setting the sword down, she leaned over the hole and reached deep into it. She came up with a small pouch.

“What’s that?” Antonerri asked.

She stood up and climbed over the clutter past Antonerri to exit the small room. He followed her out into the main hall.

“DeFrantis!” He called out. She was already halfway through the door when she stopped and turned.


“What’s the big secret?”

“It’s not a secret! I’m just focused. I’m worried.”

“About the kids?”

Her shoulders, at first held back in defiance, slouched. “Yes.”

“Who are they? Where are they?” He stepped toward her, off the dais of the altar. When he reached her, he said, “Look, you don’t know me, but in the tower you saved my life. You could have left me there to rot once you got the key. But you brought me out.”

“Well, you took the blasts from the priest that were meant for me! I couldn’t leave you there.”

He put his hand on her shoulder. “OK, then. Let me help you now.”

She sighed and sat down.

“I’ve lived on the streets of the OuterWall most of my life, since I was barely 12 winters old. I learned to live off of scraps and how to avoid trouble. Gradually, I teamed up with other kids my age. As I got older, most of them left off on their own, but more young ones came to me. I took care of them, taught them to protect themselves, to beg, to survive.

“There was one boy who was with me most of those years. He was mean and hard, but he did his part to help take care of everyone.

“One day, not long ago, he told me that someone had offered him money to take the children off to the Umbrawood forest to the west. He tried to talk me into doing it. He said they’d be safe and they’d be out of our way. He said they’d offered a gold piece a head.”

Antonerri looked shocked.

“I was appalled! How could he even think of that? I told him there was no way I’d sell these kids out. How can I sell what I don’t own? Plus, they were probably slavers or worse. I couldn’t do that.”

“Then, when the rains came these last few days, and there was nobody to beg from, I set out to see if I could scrounge a meal. I ended up being captured and held under the tower with you.”

Antonerri finished the story. “And now, it seems that your friend has sold them away.”

She stood up. “I have to find them! I have to help them!”

“What’s that in your hand?”

“Some silver pieces I’ve saved. Hopefully, we can connect with a caravan or a barge travelling west to get us to the forest to search for them.” She held it out so he could see the bulging coins. “You don’t have to come. This isn’t your problem.”

He gestured to the chapel above him, and said, “The Church that once gave me purpose and belonging now considers me a criminal heretic. I have nowhere to go.”

She nodded, and they walked from the chapel.


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Monday, May 14, 2018

“Money Talks” - A Tale of Heroes - Scene 31: Thissraelle

Thissraelle walked beside Granthurg, looking at the ground. He was carrying a large load across his back, a couple of large sacks of grain tied together. She thought that would have been very difficult, but he seemed to be hefting it without straining. He was taking in the early afternoon of the city as he looked for the destination of the delivery.

Even though she had not met a Giant before, she saw a lot more of them on the Riverfront today. A lot of them seem to run the barges like Granthurg did. They mingled with the populace, mostly human, but with more than a few wood elves as well. Each was scurrying to get where they needed to be.

“Well, here we are!” he said and turned quickly to his left. He ducked his head low to push open the door of a building. From the looks of the sign, it was a baker’s shop. The smells outside confirmed this. It was a small stucco hut, braced with huge wooden beams in the corners, and across the roof. She could see behind it a few large chimneys where the ovens were.

Moments later, he came back out with a smile and two large loaves of crusty, brown bread. He offered one to her. “Freshly baked!”

She took it and tore off a piece to eat, and they started walking back toward the Riverfront and the barge. She was silent as she walked, wondering what her next move was to be. Suddenly having all the freedom also meant too many choices. It was a bit dizzying. There was one thought, however, that had kept coming back to her. Finally, she spoke.

“How could I get to Emberfire?”

Granturg stopped, surprised, then smiled, “Ah, she speaks!”

“Yes, I can, in fact, speak.” Thissraelle said. “Do your many maps say how to get there?”

They started walking again. “Emberfire is a city built into a mountainside some ways north of here. You could just get a horse and go through the Umbrawood Forest. It wouldn’t be easy, but that would be the shortest way.”

“Wouldn’t that be dangerous?”

Well, sure, Umbrawood is full of animals. Some are big and fierce, I suppose. But still, the elves travel to the city frequently, so I suppose you could take a ride in one of their caravans.”

Thissraelle didn’t like that option. “I think I’d be more afraid of the elves than the monsters in the woods!” That comment brought a sideways look from Granthurg.

She sighed. “The wood elves and the high elves don’t get along very well, I’m told. I’m not entirely sure why. They fought each other in some historic war, maybe. I don’t think they would take to kindly to helping me through their forest.”

Granthurg considered that. “Well, you could travel east around the forest, through the grasslands of the felician tribes.”

The thought of all that walking didn’t appeal to her, but she didn’t want to seem rude, either. She remained quiet.

“Or, you could sail west up the Lesser Wynne River to the towns on the north of the Umbramoor, and then hire a guide to take you along the mountains eastward to Emberfire.”

Her bread was done about the same time that they stepped onto the pier where the barge was docked. She hesitated, looking down at the pier. “What if I hired passage on your barge up the Wynne? Would you take me to Umbramoor?” After a breath she added, “I’m sorry I got your master mad at you. I don’t mean to be a burden. But, he did say that I could pay passage, didn’t he?”

“He did say that.” Granthurg helped her onto the barge. “But it’s pretty expensive. It can cost a couple of gold pieces to go all the way upriver.”

Thissraelle reached into a small pouch and pulled out three gold coins. “Well, then, this should about cover it, then!” She dropped them into Granthurg’s hand and stepped past him and took a seat on the steering platform. “When do we leave?”

“Well, we’ll want to pick up some cargo that will be going that way as well, so it might be another day or so.”

“No matter. I’m not in a hurry.” She smiled. “Now that we’re here, would you show me those maps again?”


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Thursday, May 10, 2018

“Where Have All The Children Gone?” - A Tale of Heroes - Scene 30: Antonerri

Even though Antonerri had passed through the OuterWall quarter of Twynne Rivers several times, on his way in and out of the city, he had never walked its streets. They weren’t so much “streets” as they were “the muddy spaces between the shanties” in kind of jagged lines. The roughly-made homes were dotted by occasional structures that were made into shops.

Antonerri and DeFrantis had arrived in front of a small church. It was way too small to be called a Cathedral. It had the steeple, of course, and it was a solidly built structure, not like the rundown shanties. There was no abbey, or courtyard, just walls with a roof. The three glowing lights of the Church’s emblem were painted on door.  The windows along the walls were mostly broken, and the outer walls were scraped and dirty. Clearly, this hadn’t been used for worship for a very long time.

Cautiously DeFrantis pushed open the front doors and stepped inside. Antonerri followed. The small chapel looked like it had been lifted up, turned upside down, and shaken before being set back down. There were pews, but they were scattered all over the space. In the empty center, there was a fire pit. All around the floor there was clutter of more recent inhabitants.

Antonerri watched as DeFrantis began to call out names in the little chapel. “Where are you guys? Come on out!” She appeared to be more and more nervous, as time went on and nobody was appearing. She opened a door to what appeared to be a closet behind where the altar used to be, but found it empty as well.

“Nobody’s here,” She said, but it was less a statement of fact than an expression of confusion. “Maybe they’re out begging, but if they were, someone would have had to stay back with Andrina.”

Antonerri had also been looking through the chapel, but was unsure what he had been looking for. “Who lives here?”

“We do!” He could hear a bit of fear in her voice. “There’s a whole group of us. Maybe a dozen or so. Most of them are children, under 10 winters old. They can’t take care of themselves!” She turned to the main door and stepped outside. Again, Antonerri followed.

“This is just an old Three Lights chapel, not a home!” The warm sun on his face was a harsh contrast to the dark worry in DeFrantis’ eyes.

“Well, we found it abandoned, and we made it our home. How can this happen? I was only gone, what, two or three days?” She spun around in the street in front of the chapel, looking one way, then the other. Finally, she sat down on a stone and started mumbling to herself. “If they were chased off, where would they go? They might be in the central circle...”

Antonerri also looked around, still not sure what he was looking for. He saw an older lady pulling a low cart full of breads along the way. The sun had been drying the ground some, but the path was still muddy, and making it rough for her to move the cart. Antonerri stepped across the street.

As he approached, the woman cowered and tried to pull her cart away. He stepped behind the cart and pushed it out of the muddy space and onto the drier ground of the main road in front of the chapel. Unsure what to do, she stood, surprised, and then began pulling the cart down the street.

“Pardon me,” Antonerri spoke up, “Did you pass by this church during the rains these last few days?” DeFrantis looked up as well.

The lady stopped and adjusted her ragged shawl to cover her face more. “No. I was inside” She gestured to the structure she had been coming out of.

“Did you see any of the children that had been staying here?”

“Yes, I did.”

Hearing that, DeFrantis jumped up and came to Antonerri’s side. “What happened? Where are they? What did you see?”

The old lady spoke louder now, and a bit faster. “I saw a young man shouting at them to get into a cart with a horse. It was very strange. They climbed in, one by one. No coats or anything, in the pouring rain. Then another man tossed a tarp over them and gave the young one a pouch. Off they all went, in different directions.” She thought, then added, pointing, “The cart drove off that way.”

DeFrantis reached to Antonerri, and put her hand on his arm to steady herself. Slowly she slouched to her knees. Antonerri stood, unsure what to do. Finally, he spoke to the lady, thanking her.

“She doesn’t look too good, does she?” The lady said, pointing at DeFrantis.

“No, she--”

The lady stepped toward her cart, reached in and brought out a couple of small bread loaves. “Here. She looks like this might do her good. Thanks for helping me.”

He took the loaves and nodded, then watched as she led her cart down the street.


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Monday, May 7, 2018

“We’re Not Dead?” - A Tale of Heroes - Scene 29: Antonerri

Antonerri could hear the harsh voice of the Sacerdotis Confesor echoing in the dark, heavy smoke of his cell. “How dare you interfere! Your punishment will be severe!”

The priest turned in rage and pointed his staff at Antonerri. “Your punishment will be severe!”

He shouted it again, “Your punishment will be severe!” The gem at the head of his staff glowed white. The priest shoved it at Antonerri, and a bright light leapt from the staff and shot directly at his upturned face. His eyes grew wide with fear as the shimmering brightness exploded on his chest--

Antonerri awoke with a jolt and a shiver. His eyes shocked wide open, the bright daylight surprised him. It took a few blinks for him to clear his vision.

He was sitting on cold ground, with his back leaning up against a home. At his left there were a couple of very large water barrels that must’ve given them some cover while hiding last night.

Hiding? Cover? What was I hiding from?

He looked to his right and saw DeFrantis sitting next to him, leaning on him. Her cloaked head was resting on his shoulder as she breathed quietly in her sleep. Her legs were curled up to her chest and tucked under the folds of her black cloak.

Another chilled breeze blew by and he shivered again. His mind began to clear and he remembered the escape of the night before: tipping the table, the explosion, the running, and finally the rest. Once we rested, we must have fallen asleep.

With the awareness came a stiffness of his back and shoulders, and harsh pangs of hunger.

He wiped his fingers across his eyes, then looked over at her. She saved my life. That priest would have happily killed me. She could have left me there. Why did she think I was worth saving?

She took in a sharp breath and lifted her head off his shoulder. She shook her head then looked around, and settled her gaze on Antonerri.

“What...?” She stammered, “What happened? Where are we?”

She stretched out her legs and leaned away from the wall as she looked around. “We’re still in the InnerWall, aren’t we? We didn’t get captured? We’re not dead?”

“No, the one thing I’m certain of is that we’re not dead.” He laughed. “Not for now, anyway.”

She smiled at him, then looked away. Suddenly, she jerked her head up, and scrambled to her feet. “The children! I’ve got to get back to the children!”

“What children? You spoke of them the other day, in the cell. What children?”

“Come on!” She pulled him up to his feet, and added, “We’ve got to get to the OuterWall quarter. They began running through the maze of streets, between carts pulled by animals and street vendors barking for attention. At each street corner, she would pause and look around, then she would grab Antonerri’s arm and lunge off in another direction, until she began to get her bearings in the InerWall of Twynne Rivers city.


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Thursday, May 3, 2018

“Wizards are Trouble” - A Tale of Heroes - Scene 28: Granthurg

The sun was shining on Granthurg’s face when his eyes opened. It took him a minute to adjust his sight. He saw the blanketed form of Thissraelle sleeping on the other side of the barge’s steering platform. There was a cool morning breeze blowing the smell of the early morning fish catch being cooked and sold off the wharf. The swirling air also carried the sounds of carts and people starting their day along the RiverFront.

He rolled over and sat up. He was surprised to see Rinkmorr down on the cargo deck, a few feet away. Once they were in a city, Rinkmorr usually spent his days at the inns and shops, finding more cargo, and an occasional passenger. Here, he was kneeling in front of a large open chest. It was wooden, reinforced with iron straps and corners, and Granthurg recognized this as the chest where Rinkmorr kept all of his personal belongings. Rinkmorr was looking into a smaller wooden box that he had resting on some blankets and folded shirts inside the larger chest.

Before Granthurg could see what was in the box, Rinkmorr closed it and tucked it deep underneath the clothing and bags in the Chest. Then, with a heft, he swung the chest lid closed and locked it with a key from his pocket.

Granthurg called out, “Good Morning!”

Rinkmorr jerked, startled by the greeting.

“Oh!” He hesitated, “You’re up!” He glanced at Granthurg and then back at the chest. He pushed it back into its place sternward on the cargo deck, then stood and walked toward the platform. As he stepped up, he gestured to Thissraelle’s still sleeping form.

“Look, what you do and who you’re with is your own business,” He whispered, “But be careful. She’s a wizard. A lot of people don’t like wizards. I like them less and less, the more I hear!”

“She’s fine! She’s just a lost elven girl.”

“Yeah? Well, I trust elves even less than I trust wizards.”

Granthurg thought about this, then smiled out of the corner of his mouth. “Wait. Aren’t you a wizard? You use magic to drive the barge upstream. You’ve used it to heal me, and many other times, too.”

“That’s different! I’m a merchant and a riverman who happens to know a few tricks. She’s a full wizard!” He paused and glanced back down at the chest, then gestured up at the city. “And don’t get smart with me, either. Remember they pay me, and then I pay you. And they’re not going to pay me to haul their goods if there’s a mage on the barge. Especially that one, after that clash on the quay yesterday!”

Granthurg just stared at his boss, wide-eyed and surprised.

“Don’t give me that look! Unless she’s a paying passenger, get her off the barge!” Rinkmorr turned and stepped off the platform. He strode toward the loading plank. “With any luck, I’ll have some good cargo by tomorrow and we can get back on the river! We’ve still got these few loads to take to PortsTowne as well.”

Granturg watched him stride up the pier and onto the quay.  That’s not like him to be so unfriendly! I wonder what got him so upset? We did really well with the loads this run, so it’s not about money, unless he lost it all throwing lots...

Granthurg shrugged and bent to fold up his blanket.


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