FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 1 Part 3c

FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 1 Part 3c

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They worked quietly for some moments, Adwin could see Tipper was smiling and found it a bit hard not to start laughing. After they had laid out their gear they stepped outside and looked around Lekas. Everything seemed pretty normal, a small group of youth were drawing water from a nearby well. Some boys sat on the wall around the commons, Adwin assumed they were there to keep an eye on the livestock. A number of older folks were weeding the garden and having a serious looking conversation, seemingly about them. The village buildings looked old, some of them were sod covered mounds with wood or stone fronting, left overs from the long ago. Most of the other buildings were more recent, stone and mortar structures built with a single slanted clay shingled roof. Two of the most northern structures were architecturally Elquin in origin, likely two or three hundred years old. Stone, clay and hemp seemed to be the main building materials but there was a surprising amount of wood in use, a few barrels, wooden furniture, some door and window frames, even a bit of glass in a few of the small windows. The fields beyond were mostly filled with hemp and quinci, a sweet grain that was often cultivated over other grains because of its taste. Quince, the distilled extract of quinci, was common throughout the eastern freeholds, but Adwin had never really enjoyed it.

“Seems like a nice place, folks are healthy and the families are large. There are more folk here than is typical for such an isolated village.” Tipper observed.

Adwin looked at her, but could not get a gauge of her feelings. “Well, maybe her ladyship is a good not-ruler.”

“Yeah, likely, she reminds me of my grandmother in ways.” Tipper’s voice was a bit wistful or sad.

“For me it’s Crinokk, the fellow that homesteaded Breggan and I. Though I find Andisal much more intimidating.”

Tipper laughed and punched his shoulder, “Better keep the peace then.”

“Ow.” He said without much feeling.

The acolyte from earlier was walking towards them along the main road carrying a large basket full of produce. Based on her accent, he guessed, she was not from around here, rather she likely came from the east, her fair complexion indicated an Elquin ancestry. She walked right up to the two of them, “Hi, I’m Del.”

“Hello Sister,” Adwin said, raising both hands.

“Please, I’m just an acolyte. I tend the shrine and the needs of this small village. Like Andisal I prefer to avoid titles and needless formalities.”

“Oh, the knight that is not a dame and the priestess that is not a Sister.”

She gave him a slight down the nose look, smiled radiantly and passed him the basket.”Here, I assume you trouble makers are staying. You can help me with the cooking.”

Adwin turned to follow, Tipper said she was going to stay out a bit longer.

Del was tallish and slim, her robes loose and long, the blue dye of her order faded to a much lighter shade, wear and stains indicated long use. Adwin retrieved the fowl Tipper had killed and followed Del upstairs. Andisal was cleaning up her paperwork, wrapping one of the books as they entered. Del walked over and gave the older woman a warm kiss on the lips and said, “Adwin here and myself shall handle the food. Why don’t you clean up a bit more? We’ll have more guests than usual tonight. Lef said he’d bring over a couple of extra chairs.”

“Of course, dear.” The older woman gave the acolyte another quick kiss and Del climbed up the ladder.

Adwin passed up the basket of vegetables and string of fowl then followed.

The top of the keep was spacious as compared to the inside, there were no battlements, just a three foot stone wall all the way around. The north edge was a sheltered counter beside an iron stove and oven. The east edge had a narrow wooden tower, rising another ten feet or so above the roof and would allow someone a clear view of the country side for many yat in all directions. Near the base of the lookout platform was a sturdy hoist for hauling water or other heavy loads to the keep’s top. The south and west facings were clear of obstruction.

Del quickly set to the task at hand and began to dress the fowl, “Stoke the fire, add some fuel and prepare the vegetables. You may need to get more water as well.” She instructed Adwin.

“You know,”Adwin pointed out, as he started working. “Having your stove at the top means you loose all the heat. Better to have placed it on the ground and run a smoke stack through the keep.”

“Yeah, normally, but the cellar has two deep shafts that regulate the temperature regardless of the season. Besides, you’ve seen how thick the walls are.”

Adwin was not sure that what she had said made much sense but dropped the subject and focused on the work that needed doing. Del provided instructions when she felt Adwin needed it, usually what order to start cooking which things or where a certain tool was. She chatted about her calling to the village and her hopes that some of her fellow Sisters would join her over the next few years. She was hoping that some day the shrine would become a proper temple and she seemed sure the village would continue to grow and thrive.

Adwin talked a bit about his ambition to see GreensBridge, told her about the fight with the goblins and how he met Tipper. She asked what he planned to do once he had seen GreensBridge and he really did not have a good answer. “I’m not sure, I figure some other adventure will present itself and I mean, the city is really big. There are more people in GreensBridge than all the other places in the eastern FreeHolds.”

“It also is the home of my order, the Goddess of Mercy walked the streets of GreensBridge once.”

“Oh, I’d not heard that before.”

“Oh yes, the temple there is wondrous and there are hundreds of priestesses and acolytes, even a few priests. The High Seat is there, we run numerous orphanages and two schools. If you are willing I might impose on you to deliver a couple of messages to the temple?”

Adwin readily agreed. As the afternoon passed he told her about his time in the orphanage at Hadden’s Fort and they sang hymns to the Goddess of Mercy. Del had a very pretty voice.



Near sunset, a half dozen pies, four stuffed birds and a big pot of soup were passed down to Andisal. Four more pies were in the oven and the bones from the birds were boiling, to become soup stock for another day. The keep’s common room had received a bit of cleaning and much of the clutter had been pulled back to open the space around the small table. A couple lanterns and many candles had been lit and placed around the room. Two chairs, two chests and the edges of the beds would allow upwards of a dozen folks room to sit. Two more chairs joined the collection as the first of the locals showed up.

Del gave a joyful squeal and hugged the first of the guests, a lanky fellow, “This is Lef and his wife Milla.”

Lef was tall, slim, and of middle years. He carried a lute and a small hand drum. His wife, Milla, was a huge shouldered woman, she carried two sturdy chairs. They were both happy sorts, pleasant greetings and easy conversation. A half dozen of the village elders trickled in, usually with a younger guest from the same family and additional food, drink or musical instruments. Adwin quickly lost track of names, quince and mead were passed around. The upper room of the keep became very warm.

Lef suddenly raised a hand for silence, an intent look on his face. The room fell silent and he asked, “Do you hear that?”

From outside, the muted sound of Tipper singing the sunset could be heard. All of them remained quiet, listening. Some of the locals looked uncomfortable, others curious and Adwin could tell Lef was fascinated. The song came to an end, and Andisal raised a mug to toast the end of the day. By the time Tipper joined them food was being served and at least three different conversations were floating around the room. Del had moved over next to Adwin so as Tipper would have to sit next to Lef.

The meal was tasty and conversation flowed around the room from one subject to the next. The table and what little food remained was placed to one side and a few more of the locals crowded in the room. Drinks were refreshed and Andisal reintroduced Tipper and Adwin for the benefit of those who had not been around earlier. Then Lef and his wife played some music, he on the lute and she the hand drum, the others joined in on some of the songs and there was much foot stomping and clapping. Likely there would have been dancing too, if the space had allowed for it.

By the time he and Tipper were called on to tell their story Adwin was feeling a bit drunk. A few more people pushed into the upper room and Adwin realized that a number of the locals had also gathered in the room below them. He had just started his story when shouting from outside cut him short and people stood with worried exclamations or confused looks. Andisal pushed through the room and told folks to move off the stairs.

Moments later a young man from one of the outlying homestead, west of the village according to Del, came into the room. “Teller’s youngest is at my place, he arrived shortly after sunset. He says that they were attacked on the road by men, he saw his father and brother struck down, shot when the bandits attacked. Teller told him to run for home and warn us.”

“They have only been gone three days, this would have happened early yesterday. What was the child’s state, Lark?”Andisal stated.

“He said he ran all day, and to be sure he was winded and fell to a fitful sleep after a bit of water.” Lark said, obviously troubled.

The room fell quiet and everyone looked to Andisal. After a moment she said, “Del and I will go talk to the child, the rest of you pass the word. At dawn we’ll head out, any who wish to help may come. We will be travelling hard for a day or more. Do try to get some rest tonight, especially if you are coming with me tomorrow.”

The keep emptied out pretty quickly after that and Andisal, with Del’s help, was donning a mail shirt and heavy leathers. She spoke to Adwin and Tipper in a calm voice. “You are guests, stay and shelter here. If you wish to join us on the morrow the rest of them will be heading out after sunrise.”

Adwin nodded, Tipper simply said, “We will be there.”

Then Andisal belted on a heavy looking sword and matching dagger, looking every bit like the dame she said she was not. Del slung a heavy looking satchel over a shoulder and carried an iron shod staff. They left without further delay.

Tipper started snuffing out candles. Adwin piled bowls and mugs on the table. By lantern light they went down and packed their gear. Then they tried to get some sleep using one of the small beds, but neither of them found rest easily. Eventually Tipper went outside to sleep and Adwin dragged a blanket to the floor and dozed fitfully until dawn.


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