Thunder claps in the greying sky as the merchant ship Garnet continues its voyage to the trade city of Solharbour although unknown to its captain and company, they are missing a few items of value and some crew mates.
‘What’s wrong Jasper?’
Jasper loosens his grip on the oar of the rowboat and holds out his palm as a sharp snap cracks his fingers.
‘Ah, shit Eunan, it’s starting to hail. Why did we get off just now? Couldn’t we have waited until we were closer to port?’
‘If we had waited any longer, the deck hands of the dawn shift would have found us. You’re a noisy git sometimes. I’m surprised you didn’t wake up the entire crew dragging all of that into the boat.’
After a few relatively uneventful months sailing under the employ of the Merchant Guild, these two men of many trades decided that they’d had enough of cleaning pots and cooking meals for their ‘stuck up and stingy with the ale’ merchant captain. Three days, four oars and a rowboat later, they came to the collective decision to relieve their former ship of some of its cumbersome valuables and plentiful supplies and set out in the dead of night to make a profit with the intention of lining their own pockets for once.
‘Wait, why are we sinking?’ asks Eunan with a puzzled frown. Continue reading “Four Oars to Distant Shores”
His fingers are trembling but not because he is cold. His mind is racing though he cannot pick one thought from another. Through hazy eyes this naked man, covered in soot and the filth of dead creatures, sits huddled in the corner of a mineshaft as he struggles to come to terms with where he is. A hundred questions are battling for focus through his head but he hasn’t the sense to comprehend them, let alone have the clarity to give himself time to stop and figure something, anything out.
‘Pick it up.’
A voice, near to him yet it may as well be a mile away, pierces the veil of his stupor.
‘They’re coming fool. Grab your axe and get to work.’
The naked man looks down to see the outline of a tool in the dark. A worn, jagged pickaxe at his feet. There is a puncture wound on the base of his foot. Did he step on it? He feels no pain. He can see no blood. Just the slight sense that there is something amiss, something wrong. Not that he can make it out through the thick layer of grime coating most of his lower body.
‘Will you come to your god’s damned senses and grab your fucking axe now or you’ll end up like that poor sod behind you.’
The bell in the city square chimes as the horn blows for the first time. Deep is its cry and far its call. Screams echo through the streets of Noldum as the blood of its people drenches the soil outside the city gates along the dusty stones of the Axeway leading to the Road of Red Leaves. The dark of night is descending quicker than usual as the rain clouds gather momentum in the skies above.
The solitary guard captain of the evening watch, Keon, who was woken from his slumber by the panicked cries of a recently enlisted and still inexperienced recruit, walks the wooden ramparts of the stone wall dividing the Dukedoms of Elumbria from the wild, green woods of Ardenea. After a sudden but almost decisive first assault by the Yslfar, whose arrows pierced the very rain drops to fall upon hundreds of defenceless citizens, he is now the last commanding officer of the city watch guarding the Axeway. Though he is yet to realise it. Continue reading “The Road of Red Leaves”