Lowlanders

Chapter One [Scenes 8 - 10]

[Scene 8 – Conflict at the Farm]

Next to the fireplace, a noise from outside sparks a slumped Harvic from his chair. A commotion is growing outside and he is understandably disturbed. Raised voices begin to pierce the farmhouse walls, stirring the women.

“What’s going on?” asks Arda. She looks at Eshara who twists slightly, her wounds still worrying her.

Without answering, Harvic walks quickly to the table and assists Eshara to walk, directing her to the window. “We must leave. Now!” She hobbles with a grimace, and with his help gets half out the window before grabbing her side and collapsing to the dirt below. The impact of her fall and her yelp from landing on her wound captures the attention of the crowd and they round the farmhouse.

Trapped against the window, shielding Eshara, Harvic is confronted by a man in a blacksmiths apron and wielding a maul in one hand. The man doesn’t introduce himself. Pointing his maul at Eshara, he glares at Harvic and says calmly “Give us the elf.”

“What do you want with her?”

“What do you think, boy?” From the back of the crowd, a voice pips up awkwardly, “Yes, what do you think!”

“You aren’t going to hurt her. She has done nothing to you.”

“It’s none of your business – they caused trouble, now we’re going to cause trouble.” Another voice from the back, “They swindled me!”

“She is a patient in my care! I won’t stand to have an idiot mob of racists take her and do the Maker knows what to her.”

At this, the blacksmith swings the butt of his maul at Harvic’s skull. He strikes stone as the young man deftly moves aside, a smile easing across his face. As Harvic thinks to return the attempt, a yell from afar distracts all of them. The Warden is approaching with the others.

Spying the threat of violence, Bjornin and J’onn run ahead. Bjornin yells into the crowd, unsheathing his sword. “You will all get on the ground or I will cut you down!”

With two armed Avvar bearing down on them, all but the blacksmith back down. The warden quickens his step. As he arrives, he appeals to the men, “There will be no violence here today. You men, go home to your wives.” To Coalan, he speaks directly “What are you doing here, Coalan?”

Before the smith can answer, Harvic edges around him and starts toward the warden.

“What is going on here?! A mob of barbarians, what you call your villagers, is threatening harm upon this woman with no reason!”

“Nobody is going to harm anyone, boy. Coalan has a temper – we had some trouble with the Dalish a few weeks back.”

“And you’ll send him home with slap on the wrist, no doubt so that next time the Dalish are in town he will use them as his victims rather than this one.”

The warden, calmly, ignores the implication of weakness. “Do not challenge my authority here. I will deal with this in my own manner.”

Venemous, Harvic spits a stream of invectives at the warden. Seething, he finishes, “You won the rite of might! You need to control your people, warden.”

The wardens calm stare flickers slightly and he takes Coalan aside. Harvic listens intently, hearing some sharp words and threat of economic compulsion. When Coalan argues the point, Tarl Dale puts the hilt of his sword into the blacksmiths stomach. Eventually, Coalan slinks away and the warden returns to the group.

“Now, what happened to her?”

Harvic is reticent, but, convinced that Tarl Dale would wake the wounded elf if he must and that his word is considered trustworthy for the moment, Harvic briefly recounts Eshara’s story from the previous evening.

“Fine. I will give you 150 silver pieces to go into the forest and deal with this issue.”

The group, Harvic particularly, seem reluctant to risk themselves for what they consider so little.

“120 silvers then, to investigate. This is the best I can do at the moment. If you will not take it, return to town, have a drink.” He looks at Bjornin, who seems to be already considering the possibilities.

Harvic, still angry from the confrontation, argues that to return would be to condemn the elf to slaughter, but Tarl Dale replies coolly, “It is time for you to trust me. She will come to no harm at the temple with Sister Arda. Even Coalan would not dare.”

After some discussion, Harvic agrees to return and offers to escort Eshara to the care of Sister Arda. It is obvious that he is still wary of the situation.

Finally, they all return to the town. Bjornin and J’onn head straight to the inn, and after a short while, Harvic joins them.

[Scene 9 – Resting State]

At the inn, the drink flows as freely as Bjornin’s tongue.

“Oh beautiful lady!” he bellows at Kesla Mullin. “Bjornin has had many wives, but none so large of booby. When Bjornin is the leaving, you are to come with him for marriage, no?”

Kesla brushes his comments aside with a grin and hands him another pint of wine, which he accepts graciously. Haran, behind the bar, watches Bjornin sink deeper into his chair. He walks over and sits at the table.

“You speak of your many wives, Avvar. Your ways are strange to me. Explain them I have heard that the marriage of Avvar is weird.”

“No – hic – not strange, puny Fereldian – convenient. When Avvar get married, they look into sky and count eagles. The number that fly past, that is the number of years they stay together. The Avvar never tire of their wife for they have not long enough, ahaha!”

“And they are all beautiful. Like you!” he reaches and slaps Kesla’s buttock as she collects the glasses. “Not tiny-titted like the elves, see.”

As the day passes, Bjornin drinks himself into a stupor while the others take a more measured approach, discussing the warden’s offer. In the early evening, they are interrupted by Sister Arda. She races through the door and shakes Harvic, handing him a dirty yellowing parchment with fresh ink stains.

“She’s awake again! She drew a map.” Harvic ponders the map for only a second and passes it to the others. “It seems to lead into the forest across a bridge of some sort.”

“She’s raving,” continues Arda, “about a creature and a metal link.” Picking up his things, Harvic crosses the makeshift square with her to the temple.

Inside, Eshara is lain upon a simple bed with a stool at it’s side. She looks up at Harvic as he sits.

“It’s you.” Her eyes are frantic. “He’s coming. Mythallar is coming.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“I had a d-dream – a – a vision.”

“What is the link?”

“I don’t know. It’s magic. It was part of a large chain, broken from it. I took it as I escaped. It glowed whenever he was nearby.” There is a short silence and Eshara continues speaking.

“I drew a map. You must save my people.”

“I am sorry. It is dangerous and the warden offers us not enough money.”

Sobbing and angry, Eshara lashes out. “You would sacrifice my people for not enough gold. I do not understand you quicklings – you value not your own lives or those of others.”

“I am sorry.”

“There were treasures there in the keep. I saw them. My lorekeeper, our clan leader, he will reward you. Please…”

“No. I am sorry.”

“I could take you myself! Have you no heart at all?!”

“I will consider it. Could you be ready in the morning?”

“Perhaps in the morning. Perhaps.” Exhausted, she drifts into sleep once more.

“She almost seems well, you’re clearly a gifted healer.” Arda remarks, but is answered only by a grunt as Harvic exits the temple.

Returning to the inn, Harvic explains “The elf says that the link glows near the creature she calls Mythallar. She will escort us in the forest in the morning.”

J’onn stands and takes a torch.

“I will discuss this with the warden.”

[Scene 10 – Negotiation]

Outside, dusk is eking across the landscape.

Tarl Dale opens his door barely a moment after J’onn knocks. Despite the hour, he is wearing the same buckle, cape and vest. In the light, he seems grimmer, somehow.

“I have a deal for you Tarl Dale.”

The warden invites him inside.

“You will investigate the matter?”

“Yes. But I want a promise. You have a very prosperous town.”

“Yes…”

“My brother wishes to open an inn one day. Perhaps one as successful as your own here in Vintiver. But suppliers are few and prices are relatively high.” Surveying the room, he continues, “In addition to the 120 silvers for this investigation, I want a competitive price for my brother- when he opens his inn of course.”

“Agreed. You will provide proof of treachery.”

Nodding, the two shake hands.

“Excellent. We leave for the forest tomorrow.”

Their negotiations complete, J’onn returns to the inn and the group, after another drink, retire to their beds.

All but Bjornin sleep lightly. Understandably, the events of the day and the possibilities of the next rest heavily upon their chests. Much later in the night, J’onn sniffs absently as he stirs in his sleep.

“Huh?” He sits upright in the bed and raises his nostrils to the air.

Smoke.

~ ...

Footnotes

Nil~

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