Whispers in the dark
Photo by me
Trudvang — Mittland — Runvjiik — Vajne — Coppershed — The inn The Frozen Wanderer
In the warm embrace of the inn’s fireplace five unlikely people sit around a wooden table drinking ale and forging a plan. A plan to take over the village. Outside in the cold reality the heavens heaves snow down upon the land, the lakes have turned to ice and war seems far away. Nobody is none the wiser that in six months the unlikely people will rule the whole region.
All of them young people, none of them has seen more than twenty-two winters and the youngest only sixteen. The oldest one takes a large sip of ale and his long blond hair with iron rings in it clanks at the table edge.
“We should take over the village.”
“And how should we do that Altheric?” Says the freckled raven haired lady.
“We take over the mine first Eidlynn.” Altheric says with a sinister smile.
“And how the hell should we do that?” The youngest man with blood red hair asks.
“Exactly Tulfe. Altheric they are not going to give it to us!” Says the scarred warrior next to him.
The large half-troll sits quiet drinking his ale, nodding in unison.
“We steal the papers for the mine.” Says Altheric with a straight face.
The next night the red-haired youngling Tulfe prepares to break into the mine. His lindwurm-blue eyes watching the edge as he’s sharpening his dagger. He hides his braided hair under the grey cape. He sneaks to the door making sure not to wake his grandmother and steps out into the night.
The cold winds from the north hits his juvenile skin and he pulls the cape closer to his face. He arrives at the copper mine outside Coppershed and looks around for people. None in sight. He unhooks the latch on the foreman’s door with ease and enters. Inside he looks through the mine’s papers and tomes. Someone named Sootfoot receive part of the copper ore.
Back in Coppershed, Eidlynn and Altheric is drinking with the owner of the mine, Maujar. At the end of the night he is too drunk to walk, so they offer to help him home. It is easy to drink someone under the table when they do the work for you. In his home they find a ledger for the mine. Peering through the ledger in candle light they find some inconsistencies. It seems that some of the foremen are stealing from the workers.
Albrecht, the scarred warrior lets out a stern shout to his fellow housecarls.
“We will go out into the forest and track the bandits that wander around. Ready yourselves!”
His right-hand man is the half-troll Rifwand, who holds a leash to a tracking dog. They tie their horses at the edge of the forest and proceed on foot. The search for bandits is fruitless, they only find an old fireplace. But they get a shiver down their spine when they find remnants of the blue clay. The same clay that forest trolls decorate their bodies with.
At dawn, Eidlynn Eichraidh wakes up in her family home outside Coppershed. Her surname means horse breeder and was given to her family a long time ago. But most of her relatives are not even Mittlanders. Her lineage reflects the family business, trading. She is half Stormlander, quarter Westmarkian and only a quarter Mittlander. That’s why she has raven black hair in a part of Trudvang more known for its affection for pale hair. In the summers you can see her freckles, but her apple cheeks and full lips is a constant reminder of her heritage. After a quick breakfast she helps her father and mother to prepare for the caravan due this week.
Tulfe Bladesharpener works in the smithy all day to earn some money for his grandmother. It pains him to see her starve. Even though he is still drowsy from not getting enough sleep due to the break in last night. With his last energy he sneaks into the mine owner Maujar’s house. There he leaves a letter before getting his well-earned sleep.
At midday, the next day the anticipated caravan arrives. It’s uncommon for traders to defy the snow. But these men have been around long enough to know which roads are good enough. All the people in Coppershed go out to the village square near the well. The traders have set up their wagons in a half-circle. They sell large and small things like: strange herbs from Viranne, exquisite silverware from Silvtrundr and warm wool from Bysente.
Eidlynn and her father Eorynn buys some warm wool but are unable to sell their strong horses. They walk home disappointed.
Some of the village people frown at the last caravan wagon since they also sell slaves. They will probably sell the slaves in the east where it’s more accepted. This time they have captured humans from the south of Westmark who are for sale. They are dark haired and tanned and usually quite muscular. The raging wildfire in the Thoorkalians’ skin, eyes and heart has turned to a mere cindering glow.
“Do you have anyone that’s good for farm work?” Altheric asks the caravan leader.
“Him there.” The leader says and points to a muscular man at the end of the wagon.
His whole body is shivering from the cold weather and it looks like he hasn’t eaten in days. Altheric looks at the man with a suspicious eye.
“Did you drug him?”
“Yeah, a little brew to make him look alive”
“I’ll give you twenty silver for him”
The caravan leader shrugs. “At least the double.”
“He is old, haggard and you won’t be able to sell him until you reach Majnjord. I’ll give you 25 for him.”
The caravan leader’s eyes open wide and his eyebrows raise.
“Goddamnit, fine, take him.”
The caravan leader weighs the silver coins as Altheric walks to the end of the wagon. He reaches out his hand to the man who grabs the hand with caution and steps down. The man’s face shine when Altheric puts his mantle around him and talk of food. Altheric gives the man his small basket with herbs to carry. The man takes it with new eagerness and straightens his back. As they walk towards Altheric’s house it is still clear who the master is, the man is walking one pace after Altheric.
“So, you stabbed him with a dagger?” Tulfe asks.
“Yes, because he was… trying to… force himself… on me.” Ilwa responds with a lowered gaze.
Ilwa Beowan Gryphonclaw is a maid at The Frozen Wanderer. Her red hair flows like a banner made from autumn leaves. She moved to Coppershed after the gruesome incident. Leaving her family back in Falconholm. After a quick courting, she married Albrecht Gryphonclaw. She now bears his child but the rumors about her still haunt her. Not only did she kill her own uncle but someone started a Warg Sickness-rumor about her. She has outbursts of anger whenever the moon is full.
“He was a bandit in the north, right?“ Tulfe continues.
“A long time ago he rode with someone named blackfoot.”
“Could it have been Sootfoot?”
“It could have been, it was a long time ago.”
“Thank you, I’m looking into some murders for Albrecht. I don’t want to give him false hope so don’t tell him that we spoke.”
Edard Dunhall is a middle-aged land owner and part-owner of the mine. A few years ago, he tried to become the next chief of Coppershed by giving a great speech. But something went wrong when he spoke, he started to stutter and forgot words. Also being a practitioner of the Eald Tradition did not sit well with the rest of the village people. Most of Coppershed practice the Tenet of Nid. So instead they chose Maugbard an older man and devotee of the Tenet of Nid, as their new chief.
When Edard went home from the Frozen Wanderer one late night, Altheric was hiding in the shadows. He whispered the word, Skenplauga, and made a gesture with his hands.
In his drunken stupor Edard did not hear or see him, and faltered home to sleep the ale off.
The very next morning Altheric Ironring heard a hard knocking on his door. Outside the door, a young boy stood.
“Are you Altheric Iron-something?”
“Ironring! Yes, what do you want?” Altheric said with a tired voice.
“Edard Dunhall needs your help with a sickness.”
“Okay, run along and tell him that I will pack my healing bag and be with him shortly.”
The boy stretched out his hand. Altheric fetched a few coppers and handed it to the boy.
“Run along now, hurry!”
Altheric closed the door but couldn’t prevent to smile as he did it.
It had worked.
He packed a bag with herbs, small clay pots and everything else you need to cure diseases. Or at least enough to make it appear that way.
“Come in, quick!” A young fair woman said.
Altheric was still twenty paces away from the door. He made no effort to speed up towards Edards front door. He stared with intensity on the teen who shied away her gaze.
“Here hold this.” Altheric said and dropped his walking stick and cape on the young girl.
“Where is Edard?” He continued.
Surprised by his actions, she staggered out the words.
He walked straight into the kitchen but making note of the fine furniture and tapestries on the wall. On a bed made from bear fur he found Edard, near the kitchen fireplace. The room stank of herbs and a sour acidic fragrance that almost made him sneeze. He pulled his shawl up, above his nose.
“Altheric Ironring, healer and scribe to your service!” Altheric said with a rehearsed voice.
“Make… the… pain… go away.” Edard muttered in a weak voice.
“Where does it hurt Edard?”
“Everywhere! And I have black spots on my arms and thighs. Help me.”
“I will look at you first” Altheric said with a calm voice and pulled of the fur blanket.
Revealed under the covers was a healthy man with soot marks on his body. His body was shaking like a fever and sweat had formed on his forehead. His armpits were leaking like a waterfall. Altheric proceeded to poke and prod Edard’s body, asking if it hurt. During all this he was humming and nodding as he went along.
“It should be nothing but a fever. I will heal you.” Altheric said with a soothing voice.
“But… but… the dark spots?”
“They are a problem, but it’s not a plague.”
Edard let out a big relieved sigh and his eyes gleamed of hope.
“I will make you a brew that you will have to drink daily until you are healthy again.”
Altheric looked back at the kitchen entrance and said to the young woman.
“Make sure that he drinks this the first thing when he wakes up every morning.”
“Okay, will that cure my father?”
“Father? You must be Eona then.”
“Does it really work?”
“Pleasure to meet you.”
“Thank you” She said with a confused hesitation.
“Yes, it should cure him.”
She stared at the young strange man as he walked away from their house, still not sure what had just happened. Looking over his shoulder he said.
“Send for me if he worsens.”
Part II — Swarm of swallows is long overdue but on my todo.