Part seven 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)
Part Six: Blood and Lies (pt. 6)
By the back door of Jacob’s home looking out across the clearing at the forest, the farmer and the bounty hunter smoke. The older man seems sorry for the answer he has given, but resolute in it. The soldier understood the importance of privacy and the value of a secret so when he asked, it was politely and without rancour. “Mind if I ask, why it is that you can’t tell me?”
“I don’t mind,” the other man replied, exhaling smoke in a long even breath. He lowered the hand that held the cigarette to rest by his side seeming to lose interest in it. He looked thoughtfully out into nothingness until it seemed he didn’t intend to continue. A pained expression crosses his expression externalising an internal struggle for the words. “They’re secret matters. They ain’t hurtin’ secrets, they are simply ours.”
“I understand,” Telfor nods, accepting the old mans reassurance and allowing the subject to be dropped. Meanwhile in the village centre, Rubin is seated before a rapt audience of local children answering questions about magic and his appearance. Pan and Oliver had retired to join the adults and Verumalleus discussing current news in the kingdom at large.
“My family comes from a land far in the east, where I am from nearly everyone looks like I do!” The children seem suspicious of the scholars assertion, a land where everyone had red skin, horns and a tail, seems too much like one of the fairy stories. Agreeing between themselves that it must be something that happens to wizards.
“What’re ye doin’ here in t’ forest?” asks another boy. One of the older children, this lad seems to carry an almost adult curiosity to him. Rubin admired an inquisitive mind and hoped to inspire these children to cultivate that curiosity.
“I am a journeyman from The Weatherford University in the capital,” Rubin answered, “When an apprentice completes their theoretical education, we are expected to travel the kingdom for at least a year gaining practical experience.”
“Could I go to the university?” a young girl of the smaller race of deep wood folk asked from where she had climbed onto his lap, staring at him with a wide eyed look of wonder.
“Of course,” Rubin beamed down at her, ruffling her hair. “The university accepts students from all across the kingdom, as well as abroad. The Weatherford University teaches all manners of knowledge. From magic to mathematics to meteorology!”
“Meteorology, is the study of the phenomena that govern the weather. A student of meteorology can predict a coming storm or a drought early enough for people to prepare”
“Does the university teach Necromancy?” one of the younger children asks, struggling with the complex word. Rubin casts her a curious and slightly concerned look at the odd question.
“Not as a field of study, though a number of fields require an understanding of its implications. Why do you ask, child?”
“When I grow up, I’m going to be a Necromancer!”
“But child, Necromancy is dark magic,” Rubin replies slowly, surprised by the children’s unexpected indifference to the declaration. One or two other children had even argued that they would be the Necromancer. “It’s practice is illegal in the kingdom.”
“That’s stupid, no-one would ever stay dead without ’em!”
Inside the large home where the adults had gathered, Verumalleus is busy sharing all the recent news in the kingdom. The folk of this village rarely brave the journey into the forest except for the monthly trips when the whole active population of the village will go into the forest to take down a razorback, one of the monstrous boars that populate the area.
The village folk were surprised to hear of how suddenly the kings health had declined and the discussion carried on for a while sharing opinions over whether the young prince was prepared for the responsibility of ruling the kingdom. The wedding between the prince and Duke Evans’ daughter, Eleanor quickly overtook the interest of the room. Seeming uninterested in the conversation Oliver’s sudden query if the Earl of Argon’s Rest had attended the wedding surprised Verumalleus.
“He wasn’t,” Pan answered during the crusader’s hesitation.
“Yes, that’s right. It was a surprise as he had been quite close to the Prince, most people expected him to at least one of the groomsmen, if not the Prince’s best man.”
Oliver nods thoughtfully at the answer before seemingly disengaging from the conversation again. The conversation turned to the new toll implemented by the guild of the road when a great pained bellow tears through the village. The elderly villagers and their guests surge to their feet and out of the house.
Bursting through the tree line into the clearing, a monstrous boar with great bone horns lining its spine comes charging towards the village. Sitting peacefully at the village’s edge Vahkragg is the first to see the boars approach. Lifting his pole-axe, the plains hunter positions himself between the boar’s charge and the village. Intently calculating the enormous beasts momentum, at the last moment Vahkragg deftly side-steps the boar carrying his axe through the movement burying it deeply into the monsters side, sending it ploughing into the dirt.
His companions are armed and by his side in moments, the children and elderly villagers looking on in awe before suddenly bursting into cheers of praise for the large man. Telfor slaps Vahkragg on the back, “God’s blood, Vahkragg. You killed that monster in a single blow!”
Vahkragg grip tightens on his axe and he glares out into the forest where the boar came from. The only one to have seen the mortal wound the boar already carried on its other side, he raises his voice over the cheers, “Get back inside! A greater threat follows!”