FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 3 Part 1c

FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 3 Part 1c

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Though they were back on the road early the next day, Adwin had stayed up with Tipper late into the night, after their arms training.

She was convinced that her uncle had left because of their misadventures in Wikkersak last summer, she also expected that Sharlok’s men would be grabbing them as soon as they were recognized. He had found that experience a bit strange, not so much her concern about their safety or her worry for her uncle, more the fact she wanted to work through it all with him at all. Last summer she would have brooded silently for a while then told Mokha and him what would happen next.

Once Tipper had worked through the situation and reconsidered their options she had suggested they all be ready for a hasty departure from the coach if there was need. It had been something that they were going to do anyway upon reaching Sharlok’s lands. Everyone had a pack or satchel that would have the essentials needed to survive and whatever other things they felt were too important to leave behind.

He had passed the word to the others as they were getting ready for the road the next morning. Mokha had given him a disgruntled look, Sefla had been worried and Calathy had been excited. However, such emotions passed as they settled into the coach; yat after yat passed without incident. Iliathern’s Hold had remained picturesque, the main road was well maintained and by mid-day they were at another Roburns Coach and Courier station near the eastern border of the hold.

While the horses were being switched and the food was being prepared Adwin had taken a walk around the village to admire the buildings and investigate the small market area. From what he saw the village was doing well, the properties were maintained, the villagers looked healthy and there were plenty of children. There was lots of traffic along the main street, both local and folks passing through, he saw a mounted patrol pass by on the main road as well.

The little market was busy and people were friendly. As he passed a vendor selling all sorts of pottery he overheard a couple of the locals talking about Aramy, it sounded like someone was missing. He stopped and smiled to the vendor and the to folks who he had overheard. “Excuse me, did you say someone was missing from Aramy Crossroads?”

They looked at him, then a middle aged woman said, “More like the other way around. My brother and his family sell wood in Aramy every year, none of them returned last autumn and there has been no message.”

The pottery vendor spoke up, “Galdissis is not the only one from what I’ve heard. There were two men that passed through about an eight-day ago, they were heading there to inquire about missing kin that had not returned. Also last autumn there was another fellow trying to reach Aramy before the snow started, he had said his wife had gone that way last spring and she had not returned.”

Adwin had a sinking feeling, “I was there last spring.”

“Was anything amiss?”

“Well, not at the time, no. Shortly before our departure my companion and I had an encounter with someone that might have been a mind-mage.”

They regarded with with surprised looks, “How sure are you? I mean, most mages just don’t do that sort of thing. That’d be more something you’d expect from those Tannican priests.”

He sighed, “I’m still not sure what really happened, though my friend was confident the woman had been using mind magic. After the encounter with the mage, we were followed by a goat for a long time, most of the way through Sharlok’s Hold in fact.”

“A goat? You sure is wasn’t a druid or one of the wild-folk?”

“Yeah, it wasn’t the wild elves.”

“Are you heading back that way?” the middle aged woman asked.

“I am, on a Roburns coach. Should be in Aramy in about two to three eight-days, if all goes well.”

“Could you inquire after my brother? His name is Thon, his wife is Dobee. Their eldest, is close to your age, a pretty girl. We called her Twiggy, but her name day is coming up, so…” She trailed off and for a moment Adwin thought she might start crying.

“Look, I can inquire about your brother and his family, I’ll even try to send a message back if I hear news.”

She gave a quick nod, “That’s kind of you sir. My name if Bedera.”

“I’m Adwin, of Willik’s Hold.”

“Thank you so much for your consideration. Is there anything I can do for you, in exchange?”

“No, that’s alright. Though I should be moving on.”

“Alright. Gods protect. Again, thank you.”

Adwin smiled, gave a nod and then departed. He headed back to the station, sat down with the others and with much of the station crew for another one of Calathy’s delicious meals. He desperately wanted to say something about what he had just heard, but felt it best to talk with Tipper and Mokha about the situation first. He did not want to alarm Sefla and Calathy, and there was no need for the station employees to know their business.

After the meal and the appreciative accolades from the local Roburns people regarding Calathy’s food, they loaded onto the coach. Adwin decided to sit on the back with Tipper. A while later they passed a small border fort where the road became rougher. From what Adwin remembered there were fewer Roburns stations along the rest of the journey, though he was aware the company had planned to rectify that situation over the next couple of years.

After a while Tipper asked, “Is something bothering you?”



“That witch. I think she stayed there. I heard of three people missing kin who had gone that way last year.”

Tipper frowned, “I knew I should have killed that bitch.”

“So not only are we going to have to deal with Sharlok’s men, operating beyond his eastern borders, but we’ll have to investigate what’s going on in Aramy.”

“I think the Sharlok situation is more than what is being talked about. You don’t usually have to raise an army to hunt a few bandits.”

“Okay. So he’s expanding his borders again?”

“I think so.”

“There’s not much to the east of his hold, why not just have folks settle the outlaying regions?”

“I think he’s after the East Road itself. Think about what Roburns is trying to do. It’s pretty obvious that they want to get their eastern line extended, likely to the copper mine south of where I’m from. Sharlok has expanded his borders a number of times over the past few years and is set to do so again.”

“You think he would attack Lekas?”

“Sure, maybe Aramy as well.”

“That would double his holdings!”

She pointed back towards Iliathern’s Hold, “Maybe that holding as well.”

“That’s a lot Tipper, and unlike what’s going on east of Sharlok’s, this place looks like is has defences and regular patrols.”

“Well, it’s all along the East Road and this far out the places do not have strong ties to GreensBridge. So if Sharlok’s being funded by Roburns he could afford to take these places under his banner.”

“That would make his holdings hundreds of yat long. That’s not a freehold!”

“No it’s not my friend. No it’s not.”

Adwin was disquieted for most of the rest of the day. As much as he liked sitting on the back of the coach and seeing the countryside from this vantage, he kept expecting that they would come across an army under Sharlok’s banner. For the first time since leaving GreensBridge he was concerned about what they might encounter on their way to Kaymere and worried about the kinds of delays they might face. He was very happy when the coach pulled up to a small village on the edge of a modest lake.

There was no company station here, instead a local rancher had been contracted to provide for the company’s needs. When they stopped Adwin was quick to climb up onto the top of the coach. He retrieved the bundle of sticks that he and Tipper used for training. He felt a pressing need to hone his combat abilities. He had thought they had been moving away from war, now he knew there was war both ahead and behind him.

He and Tipper went over to the lake and found a sandy beach half a yat from the village. There were two small islands and there looked to be an old fortification or temple on a hill across the lake from the village. The others had followed along, though the three of them had declined to join them in training.

Adwin took out his ironwood staff and a couple of smaller sticks about the size of short swords. He stripped of his tunic and stretched a bit. Tipper took the sticks she typically used, one longer than the other, she set them to one side and joined Adwin in stretching. She seemed pretty calm and he wished he felt the same way, but the news from earlier in the day had his thoughts racing with worry. The importance of their training seemed much more relevant to him now.

After the two of them had limbered up they selected their weapons and began sparing. Adwin was more aggressive than usual. At first Tipper had worked to fend off his attacks, but as he continued to strive to land a blow he became increasingly reckless. They circled one another, thrust, feinted, parried and slashed. The clank of wood on wood was almost rhythmic, yet despite his best efforts he could not land a meaningful blow. Not until Tipper was momentarily distracted, he noticed her glance at something over his shoulder and in that moment he was able to thrust his staff past her guard into her midsection. It was a harder blow than intended, she staggered back and gasped for breath.

Adwin immediately felt bad, though she had often done the same to him in recent days. Tipper was struggling to breathe and chuckling at the same time. Adwin was confused until he glanced over his shoulder, he saw that Calathy had stripped down and was now wading into the lake. In the moment he had glanced away Tipper swept his legs out from underneath him and he tumbled to the sandy ground.

They grappled for a while, Tipper was smiling and seemed amused with herself. Adwin gave his best effort and briefly thought he had her pinned, but soon he was the one pinned, her arm pressing uncomfortably into his throat. After a moment he stopped struggling and she sat back allowing him to breathe.

“Good job,” She said, “If you’d had a spear, I’d be dead.”

“Well, I can’t exactly ask my lady friend to follow me around naked every time I have to fight.”

Tipper pouted, “I thought I was your lady friend, Adwin.”

“Yeah, right. Not unless you’ve changed your mind since we last talked of this.”

“No, besides, she’d be a way more effective distraction than I would be.”

“Are you going to sit on me until the sun sets or are we going to do some training?”

She stood and gave him a hand up. They proceeded to try and bash each other with sticks. As they did so Adwin could not help thinking of the potential dangers they might soon face.


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