Oh, come ON
I have volunteers. Two of them. They're not exactly the people I would have expected, and one of them makes me wonder if I'm mildly prophetic. Kinda foretold his presence in my little party earlier in the week, though I said it as a negative, not a thing that was meant to HAPPEN.
I was reading some bulletins on the Beefiary's message board - one about that crazy rock thrower in the Imperium, man, he gets up to some weird shit - when an enormous shadow blocked out my light.
I knew who it was without having to look up. "Uh, hi, dad."
"Useless spawn." He used one of his legs to whirl me around so I was staring at his chest. "Haven't seen ya 'round the house much. Visit your mother, she needs consolin'."
It's true. I've been avoiding my parents' farm since Robert died. I don't know what to say to them. "Okay."
My dad grunted. "Peh. What a way with words ya got. Where'd that fire go from a couple weeks ago? When those fuckin' black things were ready ta tear us all a new one? Ya almost impressed me with your speech. Almost."
Highest praise I ever got from Oswald the Farmer. "… thanks?"
"Don't mention it. Ever." He pushed me aside with a thrust of his chest. "Goin' to the mountain, eh? Ya seem a hell of a lot ballsier than before, Drago. Maybe you're my kid after all, even though your arms turned ta pudding. Guess I'd better go with ya to make sure you come back."
I twitched so violently my floppy hat almost fell off. "W… what? You're not -"
"Volunteering? Sure am."
I grasped for a reason to turn him down. "But… but… you're the reeve…! You can't just… I mean, you're supposed to make sure the tenants - "
"Ahh, balls to ya." He stomped lightly on my foot. I say lightly, because a full-power stomp probably would have crushed my toes rather than bruising 'em. "You're mayor. You leave this dungheap all the time. S'my turn to go on an adventure, 'n that's that. You got a problem, you can try 'n force me to stay here."
I could try. I could also get my face collapsed under his knee. Neither sounded appealing, and I sagged and agreed.
"Good!" He kicked me in the butt and laughed as I hit the floor. "Y'can't fight for shit, so let your reeve do the work. Your reeve 'n your lord."
"Hey, you aren't lord -"
"Not yet," he said, still laughing. "I mean your actual lord. He's here for his payment, 'n he wants in. Ain't that right, old man?"
"You certainly are, cripple."
Sitting at a table nearby, sipping a cup of tea and watching me stand, was Pagan. He wore his armour, as ever, and absently tapped his cane sword on the floor in slow rhythm.
"Pagan!" I stuttered, fighting hard to ensure that my legs wouldn't make me look like more of an ass than I already did. "Uh, hi! Um! You, you, you want to come with me?"
"I do." Sip.
"I've always been curious about those mountains. In the wake of the attack on my mansion, as well as the attack on Pubton - yes, I am well aware of what happened, don't give me that look - I think it wise to scout the terrain. If you are interested in them, so am I."
I thanked the gods for his brevity. Pagan knows a hell of a lot more about the shadow things than my dad, and I didn't feel like explaining everything to yet another person. "Sounds… great…"
"It's settled." My dad plopped down in the chair opposite Pagan, dipping his face into a flagon of ale and slurping loudly. "Omn Mumdab be set ob! Ahhh!"
Pagan shielded himself from flying ale. "You are disgusting."
My father emerged from the flagon with a beard full of foam. "'n you're stuck up! Shut your face, old man!"
"I would ask you to do the same, cripple."
Surprisingly, they laughed. Pagan clinked his teacup against my dad's flagon. I've never seen such an oddly matched pair, a giant, uncouth, drunken farmer and a lithe, refined knight. Guess opposites really do attract.
So that's that. I have travelling companions next week, both eclipsing me in years. Pagan especially. It's nice to have combat-worthy partners, even if one has no arms… though if I could have picked, I would not have chosen those two.
That leaves one more prospect, the one I've agonized over all week. Barrel.
I'm gonna go ask him tomorrow. I need his help, and he can get us to the mountains and back much more quickly than if we walked. Here's hoping he will listen, and agree, and not eat my head.
Dragomir the Mayor