I happen to be a writer, and on occasion I like to post Fiction stories for my readers to check out. Sometimes these stories are just random ideas. Other times they are stories I wrote and the contract fell through so they are just gathering dust. Its up to you to figure out which is which.
This particular Short story is called Truth and Consequences .It involves two of my more abrasive dungeons and dragons characters going on an adventure together. The world and setting of this story comes from Josh Weekley. If you you enjoy the setting of Braeton and the tapestry of the pseudo historical world, he’s written a novel set in the same world called ‘Crown of the Dwarf King’. Check it out on Lulu.com.
Barlaeworth was a simple farming village, far removed from the shadow of the capital. Neither its location nor the bounty of its land granted the spot any small bit of importance. Of the countless maps of Braeton no cartographer in the last 300 years, had wasted a single dot of ink on its existence. Of course this story would not be told if it was poised to remain in its obscurity.
The sandy brown fields of wheat and barley encircled the invisible city of Barlaeworth. The long brown reeds flowed like a murky river from the carefully divided squares of farmlands to the haphazardly carved dirt roads of its market center. For an entire generation the farmers of Barlaeworth had tried in vain to grow crops other than barley and wheat. But no matter how fully toiled or how virginal they left their fields, for the last 50 years, it mattered not. The host only saw to deliver to them the same toffee and bracken toned bounty. From the houses, to the shops, the entire village seemed only to know the color of sand.
“huh?” A voice snuck out of a weathered old man. The creaking of his rocking chair ceased abruptly. His bright blue eyes glowed with a reminder of youth amidst his weather beaten face textured with long creases and wrinkles. He leaned forward over the sandy wood banister. His roughly cut cotton tunic stretching across his large chest. Above him the words “The BarlaeworthTradegoods shoppe” was painted in an artesian flourish of swooping black serifs
The old-man stared tentatively at the stout figure walking across the thoroughfare. The man wore a darkly tanned leather helmet covering up most of his scalp, the fringes cut low across his brow. The shopkeeper’s tired eyes found it futile to see much of the man’s features. His clothing and the burdening June sun made it difficult to make out more than an approximate shape.
Only when approaching the shop did the brilliant light and shadows began to uncover his silhouette. And once seeing the clean and virtually unmarred flesh of the traveller, the shopkeeper immediately wondered if it was tax time again already. Of course the Duke never would send a single collector to a village so remote. Even with the violent looking sword that hung to the stranger’s thin waist it was easy to see that this noble wasn’t here for taxes. Instantly other ideas came to his mind. “Can I help you mi lord?” The old man croaked finally. His voice caught the curiosity not only of the stranger in question, but also a few of the passer-bys. An unsettling quiet seemed to rush over the small sandy village. A pin could have dropped and no one would have problems hearing it.
“Oh that’s right.” The stranger spoke. His voice swirled the words around in a strange order. Vowels seemed to cling together in ways that were uncommon. “I’m just travelling through; I do hope that is okay sir.”
As the noble came to a stop the old man, finally got a good look at his face. Though his voice sounded deep and strong, his features looked almost womanly. His skin was as fair as fresh snow. And his cheeks were hollow and sharp. His smooth unscarred face had not a single thread of golden hair unaccounted for. This was indeed strange given the traveller’s pack that was hoisted on his narrow shoulders.
“You needn’t apologize mi lord. It is not every day we get visitors. And today we’ve gotten two. It is a welcomed change.” The old man’s eyes darted to the slender silver cross that hung from the leather collar of the tough looking armor. “The host provides does he not?”
“He has seen me this far.” The stranger said nodding his head. “And he will surely supply me with many great foes and lead me to the tasks he has yet to show me.”
“So you are not with the priest then?” The old man asked. “Now that is quite curious mi lord.”
Father Gerrit had arrived in the small village of Barlaeworth early that morning. So early in fact that one might have debated it was still night time. The blanket of early morning served the priest well. He was able to side step the usual questions, which were showered upon him by a village of this size. He could store up his fortitude for later in the day. It was also a nice respite to have slept much past his usual rising when he was boarded in a church.
The priest instead had rose from his well rested sleep, much past the crowing of the morning. And to his chagrin he got to take his time in his prayers and meditations. It had been many years since the last time he could recall such comforts. Though Gerrit also knew these relaxations would not last.
It was close to lunch when Gerrit found his way onto the Barlaeworth streets. He wore the crimson and gold priestly vestments over his broad shoulders. The fine fabric swallowing his large chest and easily hiding the scaled armours he wore beneath. Upon his head a pointy cap sat enriched with the same crimson and gold textures and patterns of his vestment robes. And though a priest in fine clothing, stood out in a small farming village, this priest also stood out among his fellows.
Being from the eastern country of Slaveria, Gerrit was a head taller than most Braetons, and solidly built. Though not yet in his thirtieth year, his shoulder length hair looked like ivory. Not gray, or silver, as is the hair old men but a pure white with rivets of black branching apart like veins. A long bow clung to his back, next to a hemp cloth quiver with neatly prepared arrows.
He figured he wouldn’t get much in the way of tides for preaching on the streets. But the Host hadn’t led him to this village to help sinners repent. There was an unsettling darkness that beset the honest farmers. He had felt it even before he stepped into the town. A stinking miasma of evil seemed everywhere.
He surmised it would be a hassle to find out what secrets this town had. People from small villages tended to not trust outsiders. And though he was a priest, he was also a foreigner. Gerrit knew that if he was to get answers that the tavern would be one of the few resources for the information he sought.
“Your brew Father,” The bartender spoke. The dark skinned hand slamming the porcelain stein infront of Gerrit. “So what brings you to Barlaeworth? Thinking of putting a church in the middle of nowhere are you?”
Gerrit raised his head from the bar’s counter. His virtually colorless eyes softened as they found the caramel gaze of the large bartender. “I’m on pilgrimage good sir.” Gerrit spoke. His thick accent grasping some words better than others. “I hear this town need guidance. So I stop by.”
Though The Smoldering Witch Tavern, was empty so soon after lunch it still felt constricted. The tiny room had little in the way of windows. No matter what time of the day, its internals were dark and in desperate need of artificial lighting. Gas lanterns clung to the ash rocked wall creating the ambience of a cave. The ten or twelve tables that stood scattered in the center of the well scuffed wooden floors were stained and polished in the same coffee tone as the bar, the stools, the chairs and even the door. The only items that didn’t seem to be caught up with the bracken feel of the place where the mounted dire wolves. Each one of the cadaverous heads was snarling with yellowed fangs frozen in the moment of rage.
“I don’t suppose anyone would say no to a little prayer, now and again.” The large man said. His darkly tanned skin seemed almost ebony in the ill light. His slickly shaven skull nodded up and down as he let out a short laugh. “And with everything going on up north I’d say a little hope might get the lot through the coming winter.”
Gerrit took a long gulp the bitter ale. He gripped the frosted mug with both of his large hands bandaged hands. His bandages were as uncanny as he was yellowed like ancient paper. Gerrit couldn’t miss the bartender’s dark eyes drift towards those forearms. He was lucky the tavern was so dark, for the magical symbols that textured the wrappings were all but invisible.
“What happened there, guv? Someone not like your sermon?”
Gerrit’s face quickly flashed a tensed expression of annoyance. But the expression quickly fell back to his grin. “A reminder of what power the nine still possess.” He said. “But I don’t mean to worry. I have learned much from such things.”
The bartender’s eyes grew six sizes. The large man took a few steps back from the counter. “I-I’m sorry Father I shouldn’t have asked.”
Father Garrit shrugged his shoulders. He sunk back into the stool taking another deep gulp from the mug. He was use to such abrupt changes in conversation, when solo moments of his story were heard. There was much fear traveling through the world at this time. And much of it was rightfully deserved. And in a moment, when one heard a priest not speak about the host and the good words of faith and religion, things always took a more sinister turn. There were only a few answers as to why a priest took up arms. And it only slid into the dreadful when a priest war battle marks, and scars from battles against the old gods. And what people thought were hardly that far from the truth. There was wisdom in those who found their lips button at the mere thought of an inquisitor. Not always due to the fear of their own dark secrets and sins. But because the reputation of the holy warriors. There had been enough unfortunate accidents to put the fear in anyone who had fear to give.
The market center seemed to be a vacant ghost town for hours after Aelfric’s entrance. It was barely mid-day, however hardly cause for alarm. Barlaeworth was not the sort of town that managed to give to many the luxury of a free day to wander running errands. Nor was it home to many retired elders. For a town of serfs everyday was a work day. Only when you desperately had needs did you run errands. And those errands were usually run by the children who were of little use in the trade of their fathers.
However, by the time the sun began its easterly descent into the horizon, the small square of commerce began to get livelier. The roads threading with people moving from their work to home, or more often than not from work, to the pub for a cap off before they travelled to their families and beds.
As the bright sun of the day faded into the haze of dusk, Aelfric as well decided to walk towards the tavern. He was not overly interested in merry drinks and the clatter of words shared with farmers. He was however interested in the rumors of the strange priest. Throughout his day of replenishing supplies, the words of this most bizarre visitor caught his attention.
What perked his interest, wasn’t the uncanny mane of hair, nor was it the foreign accent. Aelfric after all was not what you would call all that average himself. Despite being the son of a duke and holding the title that came along with it, he was much less than the nobility he appeared to be. No, Aelfric’s curiosity intensified when he heard this visiting priest carried a bow upon his back. Perhaps he was a holy warrior and could assist him in his goal of being the same.
The heavy door came open with a stout pull creaking like a banshee. The yellow vapor of candle light and laughter washed over the young noble’s thin face. Carefully his heavy metal boots clanked onto the abused copper floor. His blue eyes adjusted to ill light with hardly any trouble. The round irises inside his thin almond shaped sockets winced not into large circles of black as a human’s would. Instead stretched in diamond shaped bores inside his rims of blue. His gaze adapted as though it was still day. One of the few birthrights, his mother had given him.
“Well, well well,” A slurred voice called to Aelfric’s passing. The Smoldering Witch Tavern’s heavy door thudded behind him, coughing off any sort of quick escape.
“Seems we got a lot of travelers today,” The barrage of quips continued. The owner of the voice was a large man who barely fit in the rust brown tunic he attempted to cover himself with.
Aelfric lifted his head slowly towards the man. The drunkard’s face was strong and solid, despite lacking a proper chin. His thick neck showed the prizes of a life of labour with thick threads of muscles braiding up to his ears. He wore his hair clipped short, the slender black hair standing half a centimeter off his scalp . His bushy moustache didn’t get the same love unfortunately.
“Thank you for your kind welcome sir,” Aelfric said. His deep voice was somber and slow. “I can tell you about my travels in a moment. But first I want a word with the priest.” The noble’s head shifted slightly indicating the strange human that sat at the bar covered in fine crimson and gold silk.
“I think you need to show your manners first mi lord.” A second voice said with a bit of laughter to his voice. Aelfric turned his attention back to the large man in front of him. To the left and right of the large shoulders two more figures appeared. Unlike the first, these two smaller men wore longer hair styles, one of blond and one of a ginger orange. All three of them had twisted expressions of malice. The Noble didn’t need to think much on their motives or their intentions.
“I don’t mean any trouble.” Aelfric spoke looking to the collected trio.
“Well if you minded your manners you won’t have any trouble. See there’s a lady present here.” The ginger said his voice not nearly as slurred or drunken as the other two, but no less as vindictive. His sharp dark eyes turned to a brunet who sat at the now empty table near the door. “You are supposed to move headwear when a lady is present?”
“Well I think he’s a lady.” The blond man said with a chuckle. “I don’t think men to be so small and fragile.”
The brunette woman was pulled from the chair by the larger mustached man. The wooden chair fell to the scuffed floor in a clatter. “What do you think honey, you think this one could be your sister?”
The brown haired woman closed her large inset eyes tightly “LEAVE HIM ALONE!” She shouted her yellowed teeth marred with the after effects of her red painted lips.
“So it’s a ‘him’,” The blond man said taking a step forward. “Then he she should definitely show a little respect.” The wiry man gripped at Aelfric’s leather helm and yanked it from his head. The helms removal caused the entire tavern to go completely silent.
“IT’S A FAIRY PERSON!” Someone from the back of the bar yelled shattering the uncomfortable silence.
The three ruffians turned to Aelfric with expressions of disgust. Eyeing his demeanor with malice and seething with a need to kill.
Aelfric looked at them fully. His usual smile had been replaced with a scowl of vengeance. His platinum blond hair hung limply across his cheeks, running down his shoulders like a pool of golden thread. However it was the sharp points of his elongated ears which caused the sudden spite.
“He’s… so beautiful.” The brunette said. Her breathing increased and labored against her leather corset. The pale flesh of her bosom threatened to push out from the constricted cincher as she struggled from the large man’s grip.
“Shut up harlot.” The large man spat. “He’s bewitching you with his fairy magic.”
“Look I’m not a fairy.” Aelfric tried to counter. But the two smaller men had already stepped past the larger man. The two had their hands gripping the handles of their swords.
“We go outside.” A Slavarian voice thundered behind the rabble of violence.
The attention of the tavern’s patrons immediately looked at the ivory haired priest had stood up from his bar stool. His arms were tightly folded to his chest. His dark eyes gave a fiercely penetrating stare.
All three men looked at the priest. Their stares craning to look down at his silk vestments. They couldn’t help but cough out hearty laughter. “We will ask forgiveness later, Father. I got to earn my confession first.” The largest man said.
“One shouldn’t risk the wrath of the One True God.” When Father Garrit spoke, it was not the snarling threat of an angry warrior. It was the guidance and wisdom of an ordained priest.
The three men lost their train of thought. They momentarily forgot the target of their original threat. The priest instead began to walk towards them. His dim gaze was void of color in the ill light of the tavern. But the menacing expression that cinched his upper lip into a scowl seemed to be all they needed.
“You should turn around and mind your own business Priest.” The smaller ginger haired man said. The sound of a small throwing knife sliding free from its leather holder caught the priest’s ears.
Father Gerrit’s head snapped to the side. The speed was too quick for most eyes to register. The speed of a well trained warrior of a specific order.
“Twenty heart beats.” The Slavarian Inquisitor said. His voice was cool and patient.
“What?” The men all spoke in unison with a slight chuckle to their voices.
“You have twenty heartbeats,” Father Gerrit said. “To decide if you would like to have the space of the outdoors to swing your weapons.”