Sir George was confused. The baron had ordered him into the valley to rid it of a marauding dragon. He had checked all of the usual haunts: three caves and rocky overhang, but no evidence of a beast was found at any of them.
Was he losing his touch, he wondered. After all he was an expert in the dragon game. This perplexed him.
After checking the closest of the caves again, he tethered his horse to a pine and sat down on a log to consider his options. As he ran through the evidence he couldn’t shake the sensation of sulfur in the air. But where could it be coming from?
The eerie glow could be seen from the path, but none dared in the dark of night to investigate. The wood had long been said to hold terrifying secrets.
It was by the light of day that William and Connor decided to leave the trail to see what the source of the night before’s glow had been.
“It’s just pumpkins,” Connor said with a tone of disappointment.
“Well someone or something had to have brought them here,” William said giving the “something” a sinister tone. “We all know that nobody would dare come into these woods to light them even if they put them here in the daytime.”
Connor’s eyes showed he had been spooked. His older brother took delight in the success of his prank.
Alvis refused to heed any warnings. As he saw it, all he had to do was dodge and wait for the bell and he would solve all of his family’s problems. The problems were many. his father had had the accident the year before, and his care from the so-called healers was expensive. Creditors were now starting to eye the family farm as well, and Alvis knew he had to step up and protect his parents and three sisters.
That is what had brought him to the arena. Five hundred silver crowns awaited him if he could survive five minutes with the champion, Bloodbringer. At seventeen, Alvis was sure he could stay a step ahead of the man that was now nearly forty. He had no intention of trying to defeat the monster of a man. No, the five thousand crown prize was not worth that risk. All he needed to do was avoid the hammer-fists. Hammer-fists were bronze mittens used as a type of boxing gloves. They were about the weight of a bottle of wine, and tiring to use, they were nonetheless deadly.
Alvis walked through the portal into the arena. Before him was the Bloodbringer who stood almost a foot taller than the lad and had three times the boy’s mass. On seeing him Alvis put his plan into action. He dropped the bronze glove from his left hand and waited for the starting bell. As soon as it rang, he ran straight at the champion intending to dodge past him and then run for the next five minutes. As he passed, he barely managed to escape. Bloodbringer was far faster than he had imagined. As Alvis ducked the intended blow the crowd roared.
The boy quickly realised that the champion knew his “craft.” Every attempt of evasion Alvis tried the man anticipated it, and the boy only narrowly escaped. Worse still, Alvis was getting tired. His last dodge past Bloodbringer was so close that he could fell the breeze of the punch. In desperation the boy suddenly turned and threw his right glove at the man to buy himself an instant to catch his breath. To his surprise, and that of the multitude in the stadium, the glove crashed into the man’s left eye, jerking his head backwards. The man staggered but did not fall.
Alvis ran looking over his shoulder and waited for the inevitable end. The end came only seconds later when the bell rang.
It wasn’t the most comfortable camp, but it seemed secure. Fallen timber framed the space on three sides and there was considerable concealment by a pinewood thicket on the fourth. A fire, however, was out of the question as it would negate the tree cover.
The day had started well with light-hearted chatter as the companions took to the road. Noon found them having a light meal by a brook side and it looked as if the journey was going to be an easy one.
It wasn’t long after lunch, however, that they found the road blocked my an inexplicably fallen tree. As they tried to work their way around it they were beset by bandits. The party gave as well as they took, but were in the end forced to make a fighting withdrawal into the surrounding woodland. That is how they came to be in this small enclosure.
“That’s the last time I ever let you talk me into a side quest,” Theos the Cleric said to Balwyn.
“How could I have known bandits would be after the artefact we were asked to deliver?”
“What is it that we are carrying anyway?” Tristen the Archer asked.
“Let me take a peek,” Balwyn said, opening the cloth sack.
“Well?” Theos prompted.
“It’s just an old hammer.”
“Hammer? Is it a war-hammer or magic?”
“No, just a worn-out old hammer. Oh, wait a minute. Ah, the hammer is wrapped in a wadge of wanted posters of guess who.”
“So do you think they just want to stop people from finding out about the reward?” Tristen asked.
“I imagine so,” Balwyn said. “Let’s give this a miss,” he suggested tossing the fabled Hammer of All Creativity into the underbrush.
Danshe went to her usual spot the next morning and was surprised to find a large rowboat had washed up into her tidepool in the night. Though it was largely submerged it still had become a receptacle of a large amount of seawater and yet had enough freeboard remaining to trap over thirty meal-sized fish inside. There was no way the little girl could pull the boat to the ledge by herself, nor was it practical to extract the fish in its present position so she ran off to get the lighthouse men to help her.
A short while later the boat had been retrieved and there was enough food to see all of the islanders through for several days.
Danshe then ran to tell the redhead about the windfall. When she arrived on the porch however she found a note attached to the door. Dear Danshe, Thank you for restoring my faith in people again. You are a very special lady.Please accept this small gift to remember me by.All the best, Cealia. Next to the note was a silver chain with a starfish on it.
Danshe then noticed the redhead, that she now knew was called Cealia on the beach with four seals. The girl immediately started to run to see her. Her path led her over a couple of dunes, and while she was climbing the larger of these she momentarily lost sight of the lady. When she creased the dune the beach was empty, but she could see five seals swimming out into the open sea. As she watched she could swear that one of them turned back to her and waved a flipper before diving out of sight.
Danshe never saw Cealia again, and three days later the weather broke and a relief boat arrived on the island.
There had been an unfamiliar rumbling in the night. The next morning people gathered to examine the pools of strange liquid that had gathered on roads and pathways. Could this be that “climate change” that everyone had been talking about?
Flatmates Dave and Tony had a simple agreement. Each Saturday Tony would buy a five pack of doughnuts on the way back from his run and put them in the kitchen. Dave was welcome to share them, with the only stipulation being that he leave the last one for Tony. This arrangement worked well enough for about a month. Then, one morning after earlier having two each, Tony went to make a cup of coffee and to have the last doughnut.
“Dave, did you eat the last doughnut?” he shouted irritably.
“No,” his roommate replied.
“Then where did it go?”
“You ate it,” Dave responded.
“This morning at breakfast,” Dave said.
“I never did!”
“Yes, you did. You see, when you brought them in and then went for your shower, I opened the box and reversed the order of the doughnuts. So, you ate the last one at breakfast, and I helped myself to the first one a little while ago. It’s all a matter of perspective.”
“This part if the journey is never easy,” Trenour said.
“Then why do we come this way? The plateau path is a lot more pleasant than this constant up and down road through the hills,” Wylder challenged.
“The plateau leaves us exposed. I would far rather deal with hills than the nomads.”
“Are you telling me that you have dragged us to the back of beyond because you are afraid of a bunch of goat herders?” Wylder mocked.
“Bunch of ‘goat herders?’ They are a bunch of goat herders that overran the Hurnian Empire. We don’t want to mess with them, especially of open ground.”
“But we have good armour and the best weapons money can buy,” Wylder observed. “Surely we would have the upper hand.”
“Let’s not find out,” Trenour said gravely.
After about a half an hour, the pair crested a long rise to come face to face with about a thousand goats. Scattered among the herd were about seventy nomads armed with staves and spears. Three others approached on sturdy donkeys and began to nock short composite bows.
“What do you think of our ‘goat herders now?’” Trenour asked, dropping his sword and raising his hands.
“Goat herders? What goat herders, I only see fierce nomads,” Wylder gulped.