Jeric's Journal 02 - Wright and Wrong
I was startled awake by the noise. The sounds of anger. I looked out of my open bedroom window to the barn across the small field. The sun was up and it sounded like the farmer was frustrated with something in there. So I arose with the intent to see what it was that was troubling him and if I can lend a hand. I put on my boots and headed downstairs and outside. I was only a few steps into the bright morning air when I heard it again. Fierce shouting. A high-pitched shouting that I could not make out, but it was definitely not the farmers’. I took a pause. “I’ve been tracked here!" I thought to myself. “This widowed farmer, Gaerett Wright, his kindness, trusting a stranger and giving him a real meal and room in your farmhouse for the night …and I’ve doomed him.”
I realized I was weaponless and in my underclothes, and rushing into what now definitely sounded like something hostile. Looking around I spotted a pitchfork in a bail of hay nearby. Moving at a quick but now a quiet pace I grabbed my new weapon and made my way unheard and unseen to the side of the barn. I stood there motionless, intent on listening.
“ I’ve been very nice haven’t I boys? I let Wright here operate in MY territories. I provide my protection of this land. …And what have I been given in return? … I’M RUNNING OUT OF PATIENCE!”
In reply, sounding very weak and defeated was the farmers’ voice “You…You have no claim to these lands, Karnic. We… We’ve been farming here… for generations. We’ve never asked for protection. …for anything…”
I snuck along the barn wall until I was flush with the entrance, and risked a quick peek in. Two humans armed with short swords had their backs to the entrance. About 10 feet in front, kneeling and broken was farmer Wright. His abuser was an irate halfling holding a bloody hammer.
“Tie him up boys. Burn him. Burn it all to the ground.”
“Wait… please…. I can get the gold. …please…”
“Too bad for you that you’re better served to me as a charred corpse. As a message. The Black Shepherds do not suffer fools who don’t pay”.
These bullies were not after me, but immediately stepping into the barn to intervene took no thought at all. I knew I’d be dead too if I did not quickly even the odds. One of the human bodyguards, the nearest of the would-be murderers, last sight was of three blood-soaked prongs protruding through the leather armor covering his stomach. I was able to extract the pitchfork and bring it up again just in time to catch the second guards’ shortsword in the prongs.
“Jeric!” the farmer exclaimed in surprise.
“What!?!” was all the halfling could utter in surprise as well and he threw the hammer at me. Thankfully the hammer only glanced my thigh since I think he was aiming for my manhood. The halfling, with his attention now fully on me, pulled a dagger and ran into the fray with a crazed shriek.
While the human thug that I was currently engaged with readied another thrust, I brought to mind a spell. I thought a touch spell would give me a chance to strike first. I guessed right and grabbed his forearm before he could swing again. It was gratifying to hear him gasp and we both watched as crystallized ice slowly crept up his arm. The lackey, eyes wide and mouth agape, dropped his sword and clutched his arm while turning and stepping away from the fight. Right as I focused onto the halfling he was already on me in a blur of strikes. He caught me twice with his dagger. A glancing blow to my ribs and a thrust into my shoulder. He left the dagger in my shoulder. Looking down I could see my skin bubbling and sizzling around the dagger. It was agony!
“You like that “friend” Jeric?” He said mockingly as he took out another dagger. “Bloodroot poison. I keep all of my blades coated in the stuff. You’ll certainly be dead now, either by my blades or by burning, or the poison that will now get you in the end. It’s certainty. You lose no matter what. Everyone who goes against the Shepherds loses eventually”.
He came in again and closed the gap but this time I was ready for his attacks and used the pitchfork like a staff to successfully parry. The pitchfork was now useless for striking this close so I reached out and was able to get a fingertip on him as he tried to leap away. A slight touch was all I needed however, and he froze – paralyzed as a current of electricity went through his body in full force. The spell only lasted moments and he took another stab when he was able to move, again for my manhood, but in his weakened state the thrust was slower and I was able to sidestep it. I went for another touch spell, Acid Splash, and connected near his left temple. A patch of his skin boiled and bubbled near his eye and he went down to a knee and wretched.
I took this opportunity to take a step back. I readied another spell. This time channeling it directly into my weapon. His view from there, the pitchfork an inch from his face, with electric sparks running down and jumping between each prong, and he knew. The static was making the hair on the top of his head stand up, and he and I both concluded that my next blow would most likely kill him.
“I surrender.” he said quietly as he dropped his dagger.
I suddenly remembered the last of the two lackey’s and looked over at the approaching farmer. He was weak but holding a bloody shortsword and just past him was the second lackey, eyes wide open but dead in a silent scream. The ice crystals made their way up his neck and the farmer must have finished the job. Looking away from the halfling but for a moment was all that he needed. I was stupid and relaxed my guard. Karnic seized the advantage. He stepped around my pitchfork and threw some kind of powder near my face, instantly blinding me. I reached out for him as he took off running. Even blind I was still able to react on instinct and got a hold of his cloak by the neck, but he nimbly wriggled out of it and kept running. I took one step forward in pursuit and fell to my knees. I pulled the dagger from my shoulder and collapsed to the ground.
Lucky for me the deceased Mrs. Wright was a very skilled herbalist who kept a journal of her concoctions and cures. And especially lucky that Karnic actually told us what the poison was which meant the farmer was able to collect the proper healing ingredients. I was off my feet for a few days and now I have new scar on my shoulder which is always in pain, but the farmer was so grateful for me saving his life that he promised that his brother would provide me a free room at his inn in Valencia. As a constant reminder of my mistake of letting my guard down, I decided to keep Karnic’s cloak. I put it on as I headed out to the City of Gold. Little did I know though that these Wrights’ would continue to wrong me. But that is a story for another time.