Part six in the Blood and Lies series
Part One: Blood and Lies (pt. 1)
Part Two: Blood and Lies (pt. 2)
Part Three: Blood and Lies (pt. 3)
Part Four: Blood and Lies (pt. 4)
Part Five: Blood and Lies (pt. 5)
The village was built facing inwards without an obvious intended route of entrance, clearly indicating the people did not regularly leave the village in any particular direction. The houses were widely spaced, separated by what could be called either large gardens or small farms. Judging from the size of the village, he anticipated less than a hundred people lived here. The sound of activity carried past the wooden homes, people working and speaking encouraging. Telfor passed the first knot of houses, finding a quaint village square at their centre. The first local to notice him is a young boy who couldn’t have been older than eight years. With fair skin and dark hair, the boys sharp ears mirror the sharpness in his piercing brown eyes as they inspect the burly soldier who had just appeared in his home.
“Mamma! Mamma!” the boy shouts, drawing the attention of a elderly man tending a small farm plot as well as a larger group of children who could have been the young boys play companions. Telfor raises his hands to show he is unarmed to the old man who has stood and cautiously approached. The group of children have no such caution and immediately rush the startled soldier screaming and shouting in an indecipherable cacophony of childish enthusiasm.
A piercing whistle surprises the children into silence. Their attention suddenly captured by the old man, he gestures towards one of the houses with a flick of his neck and clicks his tongue. The children seem to recognise this as an order to go inside, turning and reluctantly walk away from Telfor with a chorus of farewells and pleas to play with them later. Looking back up at the old man Telfor notices a number of similarly aged men and women appearing from inside the homes and around corners to cast curious glances at him and bring their children inside. The old man approaches Telfor, cleaning his dirty hands on his clothes before offering one for the soldier to shake.
“Welcome stranger, names Jacob Brown,” The mans smooth voice and angular features matched those of a majority of the children who had crowded him. Wood folk were almost always lean and angular, and generally stood at either roughly three to four or five to six feet. Based on the children, and buildings Telfor presumed this village was a mixture with the majority being the taller.
“Telfor Davies,” he replies, accepting the hand firmly, “My companions and I are agents of the law, we were transporting a prisoner along the road to Capital when we were driven into the forest by a horde of undead and became lost. If we may, we would greatly appreciate hospitality for the night and directions towards the road. We can pay.”
Jacob nods understandingly, taking the news of undead with unnerving calm, answering in a soothing voice, “Ye’d best collect yer companions an’ bring ‘am in, the forest innae kind te’ strangers.”
The rest of the group is quickly brought into the village and welcomed by the children who are released from their homes after they’d been greeted by Jacob and determined to be friendly. A good number of adults also approach with friendly curiosity, though none seem to be below the age of fifty. Jacob introduces his wife Aria Brown, a matronly woman who’s angular characteristics almost seems strange when contrasted with her staid plumpness.
Curiosity quickly overcomes the polite reserve of the elderly village folk and the party are separated and interrogated for gossip and news from the kingdom.
Rubin and Pan quickly win over the children with tricks of magic and sleight of hand, while Verumalleus is dragged into one of the larger homes with a large group of women for tea and gossip. Vahkragg, almost three feet taller than the largest villager is given a respectable amount of space.
During the excitement Telfor engages Jacob in conversation in hope of having some questions of his own answered, “Thank you for agreeing to take us in for the night.”
“Think nothin’ of it, wouldn’t ha’ been right t’make y’ chance th’ forest ano’er nigh'”
“I can’t help but notice that none of your village seem to be between young and old,” Telfor’s bluntness rings in his head, seeming more suave before he’d spoken aloud.
“Aye, they be huntin’ in th’ forest for now, mos’ like ye’ll be gone afore they return, shame, if’n th’ hunt went well there’d be a high revelin’ to be had, especially with guests who come so rare.”
“Unfortunately we are already days behind schedule and must report the horde we encountered in case it somehow has managed to avoid detection. If you happened to have a map, I’d certainly appreciate the chance to look over it with you. To get a local’s perspective on how we came to get here.”
Jacob is obliging, leading Telfor back to his home. While Jacob rummages through a storage room, Aria pours them tea and listens to the details of their journey. Expressing far more concern at the description of the monster they had encountered the day before than at the description of the undead horde. Before Telfor manages to inquire about their reaction, Jacob produces a dusty old map with an exclamation of triumph rolling it out across the table after the tea is removed.
The map is several generations old. Thanks to the chaotic nature of the world maps are often considered obsolete when more than ten years old. Settlements are lost to monsters and reestablished elsewhere so commonly that this map is completely useless for any settlements beyond Verwich or Capital. It does however mark the road, which is constant, as well as other landmarks. With Jacob’s aid, Telfor is able to figure out the rough path of their flight from the undead, a guess of the direction the horde was travelling and of most importance to the locals, where they had spotted the monster.
Reminded of their strange reactions by this specific interest Telfor asks the couple, “Tell me, why is it that you don’t seem frightened by the horde that could be coming this way but seem so concerned by the beast?”
The couple exchange a meaningful glance at the question. Aria clears the table and busies herself with cleaning, and Jacob pulls a small tin from his jacket. Opening the tin he draws a smoke and offers one to Telfor who accepts, noting the couples hesitation at answering the question. Jacob leads Telfor out around the back door from the house before lighting the smokes.
“Ahm afraid t’ answer t’ both o’ yer questions, I cannae tell ye t’em.”