FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 3 Part 5c

FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 3 Part 5c

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Adwin stood on the bench of the wagon and looked around at the gathered people, most of whom would be returning to Lekas with him and his companions. A smaller portion of them had come to see them off. It had been more than an eight-day since the witch had been killed, both the people and Aramy itself looked better now. Most of those gathered had quieted down and were looking to him. He still found it odd to be the one in charge, to be the one people looked to for answers. Mokha and Del helped Milla onto the back of the wagon, she was still weak and easily winded, though she looked much better now as compared to when they had first found her and the others in the kitchen.

Milla had been one of five people who had been locked up in the root cellar. Some of them had been there since shortly after the witch had taken control of the village. Milla had been there since the autumn raid, she had lost a lot of weight and a few teeth. Even though he had slid the bars from the trap door’s brackets the group of them had not been able to do much more than make it into the kitchen. If the witch had not been killed they most likely would have quickly ended up back in the cellar.

Adwin gave Thern a look with a raised eyebrow. Thern gave him a nod in return. Gweth and Alfi stood nearby.

“Okay people! We’re heading out!” There was a smattering of cheers and a handful of friendly comments, Adwin continued, “We’ll have the scouts out ahead of us and these two,” He gestured to Hidge and Whyse who were mounted on the courier’s horses, “will be riding on our flanks and doing their best to help keep us together. If anyone runs into trouble, sees dangerous animals or other threats, speak up, let the outriders know. We’ll be stopping mid-day for a short break and late in the afternoon to make camp, we’re hoping to get to Lekas within six days.” Adwin paused, looked around, he was not sure what else he should say, so he kept it simple, “Let’s roll out!”

The day was warm and clear, not a cloud in the sky and the land was in its full spring glory, blooming with the new life of the season. Adwin sat, Calathy passed him the reins, she smiled and looked at him as though he was a hero from the stories. Their wagon lurched into motion and started down the old road towards Lekas. Behind them, three other wagons and nearly three score people followed. He was not unhappy to be leaving Aramy behind.

Adwin had hoped the worst of the situation would have been resolved with the death of the sorceress. He also thought that being a hero would feel better than he had been feeling since that fateful morning. It turned out not to be the case however, on both accounts. While there were a few people who certainly did see him and his companions as daring saviours, there were a great many others who did not.

In some ways the first few days after Kerine’s death, Aramy had been in worse shape than when the witch was still alive. There had been a couple of murders, Dresmend had been one of them. Though initially the cooper had retreated to one of the rooms in TownHall, exhausted and devastated by his months long ordeal, he had been found the next morning with his throat slit. There had been plenty of fights, two suicides and the people were heavy with grief. Most of them had just stopped functioning properly, thinking clearly or behaving civilly. The witch had marred Aramy horribly, it would be a generation or more before people would be able to put this behind them.

Del, and many others, had done everything they could do to help the situation, but even the Goddess of Mercy could not just undo all the damage that had been done. Despite the fact that the Goddess had sent additional help, two Priestesses of Mercy and a handful of initiates had arrived from Hadden’s Fort having received visions from the Goddess that they would be needed, it would take time, effort and the will to heal for most of the damage to mend. Del had been very relieved by their appearance.

For most of the survivors, residents and the travellers who had been trapped in the village, the passing of the witch was both a blessing and a curse. The Dresmend family was a good example, Adwin wished he had been able to do more for them. The cooper had been killed, their eldest and youngest sons had disappeared, no one knew what had happened to them, while the eldest daughter and second son had died during the autumn raid the folks from Lekas had undertaken. Dresmend’s wife, on the third day after the witch had died, took their remaining young children to Willik’s Hold, she could no longer abide living in Aramy. Not after nearly a year of hiding in her own house, not after all the loss the witch had caused her. Dremend’s younger brother seemed to be in the best shape, the old drunk had a miraculous recovery, he and the second oldest daughter were intending to stay and take over the family business.

Others had gone to Hadden’s Fort as well. Some having escaped before the winter settled and at least six more had headed out with the Dresmend family when they left. Adwin had been happy to hear that Lord Willik had offered shelter to those people.

There had been other neighbours who had decided to help as well. A small band from Predost, nearly a score, mostly women, had come to do battle with the sorceress and they intended to carry onward to Lekas and help with the fight against Sharlok. They were pleased the witch had been dealt with and more pleased to have met Adwin again. A few of them had taken the time to remind him of his promise from the previous year. He had been quite relieved when a couple of them had found new husbands in Aramy and was hopeful a few more might do so in Lekas.

Adwin had been very surprised when Hidge showed up looking for him. Having mostly recovered from her earlier tribulations and gained the trust of Andisal, she had been given her freedom. Her point of view seemed to be that Adwin was now the most senior representative of Roburn’s Trading Company, which meant that both she and Whyse intended to stick close until there was more information about what had happened, regarding the company, in Sharlok’s Hold.

There had also been a number of folks show up from diverse regions looking for missing kin. Some of these people had found their loved ones safe and recovering, while others showed up to hear that their kin were dead or missing. These people did not stay long, and a couple of handfuls of the other waylaid travellers had managed to reclaim some of their belongings before departing from from Aramy.

During the past eight-day he and his companions had done what they could to help, Del taking most of the burden on her shoulders. They had managed to clean up much of the village. They hunted, fished and gathered food. When they could, they kept the peace. Chance Delight, Mokha and Sefla provided entertainment in the early evenings. Mokha spent a lot of time making sure Milla was going to be okay. They were all exhausted and although no one said so, they were all relieved to be leaving.

Of the group that had come from Lekas with him, only Tankard Dwill was not going to return. He had a farm to look after now and a large extended family that expected him to take on the responsibilities his father once handled.

Thankfully the weather had been generally improving. There had still been some heavy rain during the first couple of days in Aramy, but throughout most of their stay the weather had been fair and the land had dried considerably. At some point Adwin realized he had left Hadden’s Fort only a few eight-days later in the season, last year. He had spent some time looking eastward, wondering what had happened in his home town during the year he had been gone. The answer to that was only a couple of eight-days along the eastern road.

However his present concerns lay in the other direction. Tipper was still missing, though he was hopeful that she would be in Lekas by the time they returned. There was the matter of Lord Sharlok and his pending attack on the village, a war to fight. Also his friends and associates, with the absence of Tipper, now looked to him to make the hard decisions.

Adwin was keenly aware that the way people perceived him had changed since he had agreed to lead the original group from Lekas, it was as though a mantle of leadership had been placed across his shoulders. People now looked to him to find solutions to their problems. He had been responsible for resolving disputes and administering justice for the first few days after the witch’s death. Thankfully the village had chosen a new council and for the last few days of their stay he had not had to deal with such weighty concerns.

When the day of their planned departure came it was not a small band of would be heroes that set out for Lekas. Besides the folks from Predost, there were a handful of wayfarers who decided they owed their rescuers a debt and had offered to help. As well, there was around a score from Aramy who felt the same way. They would be returning with wood, some weapons and horses, though the horses were not in the best of shape due to a winter of neglect.

Adwin felt the weight of his responsibilities. He realized he was not the same man as he had been last year. He was not exactly sure when it had happened but, when he thought about those changes in himself, he marvelled over the wide-eyed youth he had once been. He wondered how he had survived those first few months on the road. He very much wanted to see Tipper again, to give her a hug and to thank her for helping him.


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