Vicissitudes in the Dark Woods (pt. 15)

“I can’t explain everything to you, but you’re in danger knowing as little as you do.”

Zsófia nods quietly, nibbling on the strangely flavoured bread in the dim light of The Resting. She felt better now, surprisingly so considering the shock of earlier’s malediction. Once she’d finished crying, Edda had brought her some food before offering an explanation.

“How much did your companions tell you regarding the politics of the kingdom?”

“Not much.”

Edda sniffed disapprovingly, “Of course they didn’t. Wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t know anything. King Hemsgard is a weak ruler, his vassals govern for him while he fritter’s away the stability and prosperity his grandfather won over his glorious reign. Things would be much worse off were it not for The Earl. As it stands, the kingdom suffers but it has debts.”

“Who does a kingdom owe money to?” Zsófia interrupts, she had thought the crown the final authority and hearing it owes money like a farmer seemed like a dirty thing to say.

“To the church, to the nobility, to merchant lenders. I don’t well understand it, I only know this much from Yanala’s speeches.”

“Who is Yanala?”

“I’ll tell you, if you stop interrupting me,” Edda’s says sharply, “Enough to say, the Kingdom has problems because of it’s king. Now, what you need to know is that part of how Lord Winsom-”

“Lord Winsom?”

“The Earl. Now if you please? Part of how Lord Winsom has kept things moving is by taxing the church. It’s unheard of, and as you can imagine, for the most part they are none too happy about that.”

Zsófia went to ask about the qualification Edda had made, but remembering the old woman’s temper elected to sit silently and listen until the end.

“The Crown has the authority to do so, but Lord Winsom isn’t the crown though he has the backing of a large portion of the nobility and the populous love him. As such there’s tension between the nobility and the church and you and your companions have gotten caught up in the ripples of that.
The High Priestess of the Church of Atyx has taken prisoner that sorcerer your friends were tasked to arrest and bring back. I don’t know what is going to come of this, but I can say that it won’t be good, or simple.”

Zsófia sat and waited for a moment until she was sure that Edda was finished and she was allowed to ask questions, “Is Telfor going to be in trouble because of this?”

“It’s very possible. There’s no protocol for this situation, Telfor would be an uncomplicated scapegoat to allow both Winsom and Nella to save face in this dispute.”

“And who is Yanala?”

“Oh, yes, I forgot. Yanala is a friend of mine who has friend’s at court who keep her informed as to the gossip of the nobility. Yanala in turn makes sure the right people hear these things so that we are not unprepared by things they do.”

This uncharacteristically veiled answer earns a suspicious look from Zsófia. She pauses and contemplates everything she’s been told. As serious as it all sounds, she doesn’t really see anything that she or the others could do about it. Telfor has already left, so it’s not like they can warn him, and if the nobility and church are as big as everyone seems to think they are then there’s not much their band could do either.

“So, what do I do?”

“What do you want to do?”

“I want to help Telfor,” Zsófia answers, it sounded naive to her own ears but there was nothing else.

Edda stares intently at Zsófia, forcing the young girl to look down and away in embarrassment. After a moment of tense silence, Edda nods sympathetically.

“It’s unlikely anything bad will happen to him, Telfor has friend’s of his own, and I doubt Lord Winsom is interested in alienating even a small band of mercenaries right now. No-one is expecting war just yet, but it is more possible than it has been in many years.
My advice to you, would be to collect your friends here in Verwich and catch up with those in Capitol. Once there, convince Telfor to pull his head out of the dirt, he can’t afford to ignore the world around him any more.”

Zsófia nods, feigning comprehension. The Kingdom was a strange place, and she felt very much like running back to the safety and familiarity of the forest, but at the same time she had never felt so excited. King’s and God’s fighting, this was just like in the stories she’d been told as a little girl, and here she was right in the middle of it all. The heroes in those stories were always scared, but chose to be brave and do the heroic thing any way. She may not be a hero, but she was kind of like one, she thought.

“In that case, I should get back to the Inn!”

Edda smiled with some surprise at Zsófia’s enthiasm, “Yes, your should. But there is no rush, Pan and Rubin should only be leaving the Cathedral now. You have plenty of time before they make it back.”

“What are they doing there?”

“The High Priestess is Rubin’s mentor, you should ask your friends these things, not me. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to go telling everyone’s personal business like that.”

“Edda, how do you know all of this?”

The old woman laughs her harsh laugh, “I am a healer child, I know everyone here in Verwich and they all know me.”

The answer didn’t satisfy Zsófia any. As she hurried through the dark and empty backalleys of Verwich, she found herself frightened for Telfor. This adventure beyond the forest was supposed to be an opportunity to see the world beyond the trees and learn what life was like outside the village. It wasn’t supposed to be whatever this was. As exciting as it was, Zsófia knew she was very much out of her depth with everything. She’d known there were secrets in the group since she’d met them in the Village, but what Edda had told her made her feel like those secrets would become dangerous very quickly if left hidden.


Featured art, The Library by NolanNasser.

Another update, this one very direct expositiony but I hope what has been left unsaid is enough to forgive me the sin of directly telling the audience things.

Running three tabletop games at the moment, and that’s really helped me feel creative again. I haven’t been for a while, hence the lack of updates, but now I’m hoping I can keep up with these while also writing the book I keep trying with.

– Zairron

Author: Zairron Plaguestrider

I'm writing to build a habit, practice, and be creative.

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