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The Book of Leafsta, by Angst Fretting

Discussion in 'UO White Stag Inn' started by Angst, Oct 24, 2003.

  1. Angst

    Angst Guest

    I am known as Angst Fretting, bard, scribe, wordsmith, collector of legends. The Frettings are an ancient smithying family who got their name from the craft of fretworking that they have by tradition specialised in. I am sisterdaughter of Mastersmith Bellows Fretting, whose son is Tongs Fretting, my younger brother, mastersmith and hereditary mayor of Leafsta.

    The Fretting ancestors long lived in Minoc and before that came over sea from the Nordic Isles in a story that I will on another evening tell. I left Leafsta some 8 winters ago with a deep sense of foreboding and came south to Trinsic with my brotherson - Tong’s son, Jern - Iron in the Nordic dialect - who will by birth become, in the fullness of time, the next mastersmith and mayor of Leafsta, and my sisterson Smaed, which in our dialect means smith, both of whom have since ventured out into the world on their own and whose stories are still in the making.

    My real first name is Agnes. It became twisted to Angst because I foresee the future and, since few recognise that I have the affliction known as The Sight, many take my prophecies of doom and destruction as evidence of a weakness of character, of unreasoned anxieties and fears – even cowardice - that make me see danager and evil where none is. Others see in me a hidden evil, that I use to summon the dark by. As some would have it, I do this by using my bardic powers to, as it were, paint the devil on the wall and thereby summon him, and such false suspicions have led some to name me Doomsong. True it is that I am seen as starting at shadows. True it is, too, that often I wake at night in a cold sweat.

    But in recent years the age of shadows that was long prophesied has begun to darken the land and my visions of "what was to be" seem all too horribly to be coming to pass. Monsters multiply, many of a sort that have never before been seen, and that make their lairs in the wilderness, even close to settled areas. New kinds of wytches wield necrotic malefices that raise the undead from their graves, and by so doing multiply the undead that they appear to breed and threaten to become innumerable. These disturbed things in their troubled halfwake stalk the land spreading dismay, fear and horror.

    The price of The Sight is often great, and so I have aged before my time. For posterity I here have set down the story of the Fretting kin, my ancestors, of that cadet house, the Leafsta Frettings, from which I am sprung, of the smithyhome that the migrant descendents of my fathermother’s fatherbrother, Anvel “loosefoot” Fretting, wrought in the wilds of the north, the fortified smithstown that is known as Leafsta, as well as the tales of the children of my siblings since I removed with them to the south. This is a long tale of struggle, triumph and despair, that will take many fireside eves to tell. I recount all this mostly in the words and experience of my kin as and where appropriate, elsewhere in lore handed down by our bards in tale, verse and song, and also in my own words that I am setting down in this, the Book of Leafsta.
  2. Quiby

    Quiby Guest

    I look forward to reading more.

    One question, though:
    When you say "I am sisterdaughter of..." is that the same as "I am niece of..."?

    It's just something I've never seen before, which is why I ask.
  3. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Yes, a niece/nephew can be the daughter/son of a sister or of a brother, In English we don't make this distinction. Same with grandparents, so grandmother can be mother's mother or father's mother.
  4. Quiby

    Quiby Guest

    It makes sense, but the whole family tree idea makes my head hurt...
    and that's without going anywhere near the "once removed" with cousins and things that go beyond the basics...
  5. Angst

    Angst Guest

    The flight from the Northern Isles
    The Leafsta Frettings come from a long line of Minoc metal workers. Their origins are obscure, but our ancestors claim to have come to Britannia from the Northern Isles some four centuries ago, and that they originally spoke the Nordic tongue. They were a black-haired humanoid people with sallow complexions, of medium to short height, broadly-built and with high cheekbones, stolid and earthy in their temperament. Unlike Britannians they were fiercely familial and counted their kin to the nth degree.

    It is recounted that my ancestors were originally one of a number of families who came over sea to Minoc as refugees crowded into one fishingboat. They were fleeing, it is said, from some major cataclysm in which the very earth under their feet shook and the seas rose, drowning whole islands and throwing up new ones – a veritable war of the gods. More than this we know not, despite which the original “Flight Families” (see footnote 1) are proud of their origins. The whole is shrouded in mystery, perhaps as a result of the forgetfulness that follows the trauma of diasporic flight. Despite several voyages of exploration that have been made since by intrepid Britannian sailors and by voyages of exploration funded by Minoc City since our ancestors arrived there, these islands have never been found. But our origins continue to this day to make their mark on our people and their psyche, as the tales in later chapters of the Book of Leafsta tell.

    Flight Family lore says that their islands comprised a wide-flung archipelago sometimes paradoxically described as a land of ice and fire, though the reason for such a strange and seemingly contradictory description remains obscure. The songs these migrants handed down tell of tall glacial mountains rearing above deep and wild coniferous forests, of a rich fauna, including bear, wolf, lynx and eagle, of sparsely-peopled lands, with no large settlements of the like of Minoc. They tell of many isolated crofts in forest clearings and scattered hamlets clinging to wild coasts where families tend a few half-wild cattle and goats, trap for fur, and fish and hunt the deep-sea monsters for food, oil and other necessities. The people had simple crafting skills, building seaworthy fishing boats and forging or carving many of their daily needs - their traps, hunting weapons and everyday household and chandlery items. They were an independent folk, men and women alike, resenting the shackles of imposed command and hierarchy and with a deep-rooted but simple egalitarianism.

    The Flight Families long resisted integration into the leading Minoc smithy families. Part of the reason for this was their obvious foreign-ness, their language and their own rituals and customs. They continued to speak the Nordic tongue for some generations, but eventually practical needs dictated by everyday life in Minoc prevailed and the process of intermarriage and intermingling led to them learning local skills and of course especially the finer of the smithying arts. The long and slow process of integration proceeded until all that remained was their identity as “the Nordic families” and their strange dialect containing many foreign words but most obvious in their difficulty in pronouncing the curious Britannia “th” and “w”sounds, a difficulty that remains for some Leafstans to this day. Some children are born that look much like our ancestors, especially among the Leafstans, among whom inbreeding has returned, but the Minoc mixing has meant that brown hair and a hint of a dark complexion is mostly what remains.

    The rise of the Fretting family
    The Frettings were originally just one of many of the refugee Northern Isles families but they became locally famed for their wrought iron grave-markers (see footnote 2). These became the family speciality about 200 years ago under the inspired family headship of its great matriarch Millfloe Fretting. Millfloe had remarkable artistic talents and, unusually for a woman in Minoc culture, was a master smith. She wrought inspired gravemarkers that have since become rarities, even collectors’ pieces. My ancestors built on this achievement and succeeded in attaining high levels of skill and artistry, their grave-markers being much sought after.

    The next hundred years or so saw the Fretting family reach an apogee of success in craftsmanship and repute. It led to a notable increase in prosperity in the Nordic community as its leading families established positions of influence and standing among the ruling Minoc smithying families who controlled the metalworking industry.

    Smaed Fretting, my Great Great Grandfather (my fathermother´s fatherfather, to be exact), raised the Fretting smithying arts to new heights. The finely-worked and imaginative gravemongery, hung with many subtle symbolic meanings and representations of family icons were for a while much in fashion and even became something of a status item. They were often personalised, with wrought images of the deceased’s favourite pet or packhorse, or a fish representing “the one that didn’t get away”. Largely as a result of this new artistic innovation, Smaed became the head of his Guild, and it is said that to this day you may see who the local notable burghers of Minoc were at that time in history by the elaborateness of their grave-markers. Even some of the more prosperous master smiths could afford lesser works of this art.

    (1) The Flight Families are Coker, Fiskdaughter (in whose boat they arrived), Fretting, Treefeller (since corrupted to the more Britannic-sounding name of Treefellow), Whittlerson, Husband and the recently extinct mining family, Delver.

    (2) The etymological origins of the name Fretting is in dispute. It is known that the family was one of the original Flight Families, and all agree that the name originates from before the Flight. But beyond this, opinions divide. Most Frettings maintain fiercely that the long tradition of fretwork began in their home islands, where they were already smithers. Descendents of rival Flight Families see this as a vainglorious attempt to give the family’s smithying tradition a longer geneology. The Frettings’ disparagers argue that, although there were incontravertably ironsmiths in the Northern Isles, they were few in number, probably mostly part-time, and, given the relatively simple and functional level of smithing there, fretwork was almost certainly not practised, or at least not enough to give a family such a sur-name. This school of thought holds to the explanation that the name originally signified that the family was a fur-trapping one, referring to the beaver, still know today in our dialect as “the chewer”, the original Nordic word for “chew” and “fret” having the same etymological origin. This seemingly petty issue has led to some inflamed tempers down the years and even, it is whispered, to one death.
  6. Quiby

    Quiby Guest

    I’m really rather enjoying this; it’s nicely written and has more than enough detail to keep me happy.
    Of course, I’m never happy, that’s what makes me happy.
  7. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Part 3

    The migration to the Nordic Forest
    It was Smaed´s younger brother, Anvel “loosefoot” Fretting (my fathermother’s fatherbrother), who - partly to escape the shadow of his famous brother and partly to take the skill and its product to pastures new - led a migration of junior branches of the Houses of Fretting, Hammering, Coker, Millster and Treefellows from the by then extensive Nordic Minoc kin (footnote 1) to found a village of Cadet Houses in the wilds. Anvel’s brief three-paragraph account was recorded for posterity by his younger son, the bard Gnosong, and is given below.

    “We left with all our possessions in our wœgns (footnote 2) one damp late winter morn as the sun stained the eastern sky bloodred and, keeping the seabay to our northeast and the mountains to our southwest, we headed west across country. By each woegnlaager evecamp the mountains were ever closer, until, joining a road we followed it first north then northwest, passing beneath the steep slopes of these same mountains, now hard to our left. Here we began to look for suitable sites for a mining settlement, so our journey became much slower with frequent stops for exploration and the investigation of promising sites, but we found none. The road crossed a wide river and 10 days out of Minoc we left the road and headed south where we spent some weeks exploring the broad valley from which the river issued. This proved unpromising and so returning to the road we continued along it as it trended first west, then northwest.

    “We liked not the mountains to our south here, they felt threatening and evil, the vegetation was stunted and and the water from the streams flowing from this range was foul, so we hurried on (footnote 3). As we pushed further north, were approaching more temperate climes and despite the onset of summer it grew cooler but no less oppressed by fear. The vegetation also grew less lush here. The road passed closer by the threatening mountains until it became hemmed on both sides, one by sea one by sheer rock, a barren, inhospitable defile.

    “Eventually the road crossed a bridge at the western mouth of the defile and the road wound up into a wide forest of birch, evergreen and broadleaf trees, with the mountains trending away from the coast southwest. Here the region had a wholesome feel to it and our hearts and spirits rose. We turned left off the road and, climbing, followed the line of the foothills south. We finally made woegnlaager in rolling and fairly open forestland on the foothills above the eaves of a thick forest that we named the Nordic Forest.” (footnote 4)


    1. There was more than one family from each House, the largest House being the Frettings. In all it was estimated that some 200 souls made the migration west.

    2. Wains in our dialect (covered wagons, strengthened and adapted to migratory travel).

    3. It would appear from this account that the migrants had reached the Serpentspine Mountains and the proximity of the Chaos Hold.

    4. We later learned that this is known by Britannians as The Deep Forest.
  8. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Part 4
    The founding of the Cadet House of the Leafsta Frettings
    Although the migrants knew not at the time, what we had dubbed the Nordic Forest was what Britannians call the Deep Forest , an ocean of trees, stretching from both the northern and western shores to the Serpent Spine Mountains, on whose flanks the migrants stood and against which the eastern limits of the forest lapped, seemingly just below the migrants’ feet. Here, a few treks inland from the town of Deepwater at the head of the Northern Ocean inlet known as Point Bay the Deep Forest can be seen stretching west further than the eye can see,vanishing into a distant guess of hazy green on the horizon.

    This is the majestic and breathtaking view to the west over one of the last great forest wildernesses of Britannia, a panoramic view that, we later discovered, can only be obtained from just this particular foothill (footnote 1). It is a forest wilderness almost unique in the world by virtue of both its size and by being a mixture of broadleaf and needleleaf trees, a characteristic given to it by its magnificent and ancient yews of unimaginable girth and majesty.

    It is said that on looking down upon the canopy of the forest towards the west, the migrants’ advanced party were for a while speechless with awe and wonder at its beauty and grandeur, while behind them for a backdrop they had the abrupt and snow-decked peaks of the impenetrable mountain range over which eagles soared. Wordlessly they looked at one another in understanding and knew that they had indeed arrived home from home.

    Many Leafstans have since marked how the migrants and their descendents developed a fierce attachment to the forest that they to this day still call the Nordic Forest. For indeed it is said that the evergreen yews and the soaring peaks combine to kindle a deep folk memory of the splendour of the conifer forests and snow-laden mountains of their lost homeland. In the autumn the broadleaf trees flame gold and red, so characteristic of Britannia and so different, it is said, from the ever green forests of the Nordic Isles, truly home from home.

    Here in the rolling forested foothills was an abundance of coking timber for fuel, while the fast mountain streams provided a choice of natural rapids for a watermill to drive the bellows and the hammers of the Fretting forges. Best of all – and for which they had long searched - was the abundance of unusually high-grade iron ores. Anvel’s wife, Millie, witnessed and described this momentous discovery, the day after they left Tonsure Hill (footnote 2):

    “My husband took his pickaxe and walked a little way up the mountainside. He swung it up to strike for ore but I was puzzled to see that his pick remained poised above his head and he seemed to stare at his feet for what seemed to be a long moment. Then, dropping his pick he stooped and picked up some rock, examining it closely. He spun round and ran back to his waiting people with a look of excitement animating his face. What he held in his hands was ore so pure that it was almost solid iron. We feasted that night communally inside our wœgnlaager by way of celebration, knowing we had found what we long had searched.”

    Angst’s account continues: It is said that in those early days the orestone lay on the surface and could just be collected. Hard this may be to believe, but even today it is certainly the case that the lodestone is easily quarried locally and is both abundant and of exceptional purity.

    The settlers scouted widely to find the best site for their village, and chose with care. They looked for a low, defensible hill with a fine millstream, suitably sited. There, in this ironworker’s paradise, they built their fortified village that they called Leafsta. Despite its remoteness and its vulnerability as a frontier settlement, here we manage, still today, to eke out a simple subsistence, remaining as far as we can tell, unknown to the wider world.

    The Leafsta Frettings lost all contact with their Minoc kin, it being a long and difficult journey between them, with evil lands and mountain ranges separating the smoke of Minoc from the fresh forest wilderness of Leafsta. The process of integration that the Minoc kin was undergoing ceased for the Leafsta Frettings, whose social and physical isolation reinforced their inward-looking identity and nurtured a fierce independence and a love of the forest that wakened their soul-longing for their lost homeland, a longing that to some seems to become more intense with each passing generation (footnote 3).

    Anvel died content in the fullness of his time, able to look on his life´s work, the simple village he had founded. Anvel’s younger son, the bard Gnosong, recorded some of his last words:
    “Life here is, of course, precarious due to the strife between the forces of good and evil in these parts. It is also dangerous on account of the monsters, the closeness of the haunts of the Undead and the fastnesses of the orcs. Orc soldiery occasionally passed through the forest on their raids towards Yew and on their visits to Underhill where they collect the shiregeld. So an uneasy peace prevails on this small eastern outpost of humankind, though we are always aware of our peril, and the fragile thread on which the life of our community hangs.” (footnote 4)

    1. As chance would have it - if chance it be - the best panoramic view of the Deep Forest, can be had from the one foothill with a bare summit on which the migrant caravan's advanced party happened to first see the forest from, a hill that Anvel called “Tonsure Hill”. Some Leafstans later claimed that it was no chance that we first spied the Nordic Forest from just that hill, as it was pre-destined that we would settle here having once glimpsed the expanse of the Nordic Forest – not to mention its closeness to the purest ore a mining community could wish for.
    2. Tonsure Hill was to exposed to view and, moreover, lacked a good millstream, to be a suitable site for the new settlement.
    3. For this reason Leafstan kin claim that they are more true representatives of the Flight Families than their urbanised cousins.
    4. For long Leafstans had no contact with the outside world. We were aside of the thoroughfares and long kept to ourselves, so we learned little of who our neighbors were. It took many years to build our community and to replenish our worn equipment, and when we at last began trading we took our wares north to Deepwater, saying not from where we came, but that our kin was to be found in Minoc, far to the east.
  9. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Part 5
    On the social organisation of Leafsta (as recounted by Angst Fretting)

    Leafsta village,as befits a frontier settlement with potential enemies nearby, was planned and designed by my father’s mother, Smaed’s wife, Heraxa, the warrior-architect, and built with security in mind. Heraxa’s tactical and combat skills, combined with architecture and building skills were, of course, critical to the success of the settlement. Here follows my transcription of Heraxa’s description.

    “Using stone quarried from the foothills and site-cleared timber, the village was constructed using fort-building principles on a low but flat-topped and abrupt-sloped hill which had a fine millstream flowing east-west hard by its northern slope that ends in a rock cliff with a drop of 10 feet to the rapids. The village was built in woegnlaager-fashion, as one continuous building, a bit like a horseshoe-shaped terraced row of initially one-storey houses (though a second storey is being added by the larger families), with its doors and wind-eyes all facing inward. This proved pleasing to they eye, as well as reminding our folk of the woegnlaager that was our first home on this hill. The outer wall was equipped with a roof walkway and archer-embrasures, and will be continually thickened by applying the iron-rich molten slag from our forges to make a smooth and very strong metalled outer surface.

    “The open end of the horseshoe-shaped terrace faces north and rests against the cliff above the deep and rapid-flowing millbrook. It is closed on the cliff-top by a 10-foot high stone wall with a platform walkway and archer-embrasures. The northern extremity of the western arm of the horseshoe-terrace houses the watermill. South of that is the smithy with its forges and anvils. The first home abutting the smithy is, of course, the home of Mastersmith Fretting, followed by the other workers – carpenter, miller, coker, and so on, in descending order of status (footnote 1). The northernmost building of the eastern arm of the horseshoe houses the stable and meeting room. The size of the settlement is enough to enable the top of the hill to be enclosed inside the horseshoe, with the bend of the horseshoe at the highest (southern) point and the two ends at the lowest, resting, as explained, on the millbrook clifftop. All around, the lower slopes of the hill have been cleared to provide timber for the buildings, so there is a free field of fire to the range of a longbow shot.

    “The space inside the horseshoe is given over to growing vegetables (mainly root) while a small herb garden abutts the inner southfacing stone wall. Armed parties go to hunt and trap, to “mine”, tos cut wood and to tend the charcoaling. Every adult learns to handle a bow as part of their duties and archery is practised on the slopes outside the village, even though the main melee weapon is, of course, the axe or hammer.

    Angst has added the following notes:
    This defensive architecture is an unusual arrangement – indeed the village is sometimes now called “Horseshoe” and it has so far served its purpose well. But these appear to be darkening times: dread rumors speak of the coming of an age of shadows, in which monsters will multiply and take new and more terrible form and new evil mages will arise who, if it is to be believed, will develop necrotic spells that can create undead so that they multiply. So the fortlike village is a wise precaution.

    1. The Flight Families and their Minoc descendents were very status conscious, a necessity to maintain their position in Minoc. This was quite different, it is said, from the way life in the more dispersed settlements of the Northern Isles was organised.
  10. Angst

    Angst Guest

    I, Angst Fretting, began to record the story of Jern, one of my two nephew wards whom I brought to Trinsic several years ago. Jern Fretting's story begins by recounting the departure from Leafsta and what then transpired.

    Let me introduce myself. My name is Jern Fretting, blacksmith, citizen of Trinsic.

    Despite my geneology, since the great migration from Minoc, Leafstans have become countrified and rustic, much like their Nordic ancestors: returning to their roots, as it were. I was born and bred i´n Leafsta so in many ways I am a simple countryman, unused to the big city and its social graces, which I find bewildering, making me shy and awkward.

    You might say I have fallen in this world and now have to make my way alone. I am fairly well lettered, but some say I talk a bit strange. This is because of the Leafstan dialect, which, originating in the Nordic tongue, though much softened still makes it hard to pronounce the Britannian “th” sound that Britannians love - all those "thee" and "thou" sounds make Leafstans sound as if they are hissing - though I came to Trinsic as a child and so rarely say zee or zou.

    I want to be a good smith in case I can one day resume my father’s mantle of Mastersmith to which I was born. But therein lies a tale of sorrow, and I have but little hope that this will ever be. Let me, then, start from the beginning and tell how I came to my present circumstances.
  11. Angst

    Angst Guest

    My Leafsta childhood
    I was born and bred in this remote and little-known corner of the world. I vaguely remember my Grandfather, Bellows Fretting, a man with a mighty voice, who could issue orders above the din of smiting iron at his forge – or at least, so his children (including my father, Tongs Fretting) claimed. It is said that already as a tiny infant at his name-dipping in the icy Leafsta millrace he yelled so loudly that his forename was from then on given.

    I love the dark, dense forests of these northern foothills with its trees of yew and birch and pine, the haunt of lynx, bear, wolf and elk, with the rough-hewn rearing mountains always on the eastern horizon and watched over by majestically-soaring eagles. As I later found, the Norse Forest - or the Deep Forest as Britannians call it - is hard to penetrate and gets increasingly dense, tangled, swampy and treacherous the more west one penetrates, where are also the lairs of dangerous monsters.

    As all Leafstans, I was early taught elementary arms lore and to camp and to hide. I went often into the nearby forest hills to forage for blueberries, cloudberries and best of all mushrooms, that I adore - especially the golden chanterel, the king cep and the funnel chanterel (sometimes called the horn of plenty). Few venture alone far into the Norse Forest. As a child I even went once or twice as far as the nearby eaves of the Norse Forest with the lumber parties or charcoal-burning parties, though never further.

    My mothersister, Angst Fretting (Bellows’ brotherdaughter) predicted a dreadful fate of fire and death for Leafsta. No-one believed she did other than express her own fears, though, with hindsight our exposed situation did give it some credance.
  12. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Jern and Smaed leave with Aunt Angst for Trinsic

    My life changed when I was 10. One day my parents, emerged from being long closeted with Aunt Angst. They looked grey of face and worried, and told me that I would be leaving Leafsta with Aunt Angst and my cousin Smaed to find a safe haven with distantly-related family in the far south for a while. We would not be gone long, perhaps a year or two, and would either return or - if the worse came to the worst - my parents would join us.

    To prevent Leafsta morale from suffering from what might have been seen by many as the cowardly flight of Angst Doomsong, Aunt Agnes left with me and my father’s brotherson Smaed, guided by her strange ranger escort quietly early one summer’s dawn, saying nought of our intentions, only that we were visiting relatives, which was true as far as it went.

    I took a worried farewell of my parents and with many a backward look at my beloved home - blinded by the rising sun through my tears - and clutching my few belongings, we set out.

    I knew not at the time which paths we trod, as we very soon left my familiar stamping grounds. I have since made one return journey and afterhand Smaed and I surmised together that we headed west cross-country to avoid the Crossroads, then joining the road south of Yew we journeyed south, then east through the southern mountain pass, almost to the gates of the city of Britain. There the road turned finally south again and after a long way and many marches we reached a seemingly endless sprawl of cottages, houses and residences west of the mighty city of Trinsic. One of these houses was to be our future - and hopefully temporary - home.

    We were warmly received by Aunt Angst’s distant kin, an elderly retired miner-cotter called “Digs” Delver, with whom our ranger escort left us. Despite being a bit forgetful, Digs was a talkative nuncle whose seemingly limitless fund of bedtime stories were both amusing and engaging. He took me on occasional mining trips, teaching me how to dig and then smelt the ore - a skill that I later found well-complemented my rudimentary smithing skill - though these trips became fewer and fewer and eventually ceased altogether. The arrangement was mutually suitable as Digs was becoming infirm and welcomed being looked after by Aunt Angst, with her young brood able to fetch and carry water, wood and provisions, tend the small vegetable garden, the chickens and the pig, and do other heavier chores.
  13. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Waiting for news from Leafsta
    Time passed - first months, then seasons passed, which came full circle, stretching into a year - and I kept anxiously looking out for a messenger, but while many people passed by our cottage, none came to our door. Aunt Angst sent her pigeon to my father and others of our kin every now and then but we never got a reply back. A second year passed, then a third. Still nothing, not even a pigeon. She wouldn’t answer questions and looked increasingly grim as time passed and no news came from Leafsta.

    Smaed and I greatly missed our family and kin, our home village and the Norse Forests (footnote 1). This wasting sickness that we call the home-longing is a yearning that as time passed and the months lengthened into years became worse rather than better. I used to dream of the Norse Forest with its yew trees, and missed my parents, kin and friends and the close and intimate community of Leafsta.

    But life goes on. I well remember my first visit to the city of Trinsic that Aunt Angst took Smaed and me on – I was 12 at the time. I was overawed by its size and magnificence, and could only gawk at its endless walls, towers and the main Keep with the banners of the Duchy of Trinsic flying. Also the paved boulevards and squares and the innumerable shops of all kinds made a deep impression on me. It took a long time to explore and find my way about and the city was crowded with all manner and class of people from mighty lords and ladies and the armored knights to the guards, the humblest artisans, the street urchins, beggars, the petty cutpurses, the adventurers and the drifters. I learned to bank valuable and to lounge on street corners, watching girls and chatting to passers by. We only very rarely went to Trinsic, I was there perhaps twice in all during this waiting time. Mostly we lived in quiet but industrious obscurity, if anything even more cut off from the world than we had been in Leafsta.

    Digs Delver died when I was 14. With him went the last of the Delvers, one of the original Flight Families (Footnote 2). Digs had no natural heirs and he left his cottage to Aunt Angst. It was then, with still no news from the Deep Forest that I decided to return to Leafsta, after I had helped Aunt Angst to settle in. I had learned basic smithying and mining from Digs and looked forward to taking my adult place in my home community. I was nearly 15. Smaed begged me to take him with me, but Aunt Angst thought that at 12 he was too young for such an adventure. I secretly agreed. It would be almost too big an adventure just for me alone as a fifteen year-old. I took my leave from Aunt Angst, who said she would watch over me in her dreams, and I headed north, retracing the long and difficult route alone that the three of us and the strange ranger escort had taken 5 years previously.

    1. This was in the Leafstan dialect what most Britannians call the Deep Forest.

    2. With the passing of Digs, the House of Delver came to an end. It is so far the only one of the original refugee families to die out. For background on what we call ”The Flight Families” and how they came to Minoc see Part 2 of The Book of Leafsta.
  14. Quiby

    Quiby Guest

    Once again, you have done some nice writing.
    Although my feedback has been delayed for various reasons, I?m happy to say that I?ve enjoyed the latest instalments. Can we hope to see more from the Book of Leafsta in future?
  15. Angst

    Angst Guest

    I was just about to do the next instalment.

    The journey back to Leafsta
    The return journey proved no more dangerous than the escorted outward one. I followed the road north, staying wary and keeping a sharp look out, so whenever danger threatened I just ran as fast as I could. Perhaps I was just lucky, but I made safe camp each night and managed to avoid trouble.

    At last, after many adventures and dangers, the road turned east and I saw my first yew trees. Tears filled my eyes at the sight of my beloved forests: nearly home! I knew it was only a few marches further, but I knew not the way, for of course, I had never gone far from the village as a child, whilst on the outward journey our ranger escort had taken us across country, south of the crossroads.

    So I decided to stay on the road east until I came to the mountains then do a dog’s leg turn and follow its western slopes until I found my home village nestling in the foothills, so approaching it from the northeast.

    I was nearly home, when, hasting eastwards one dark and blustery night I passed for the first time in my life the famous Crossroads of Yew with its signpost. I noticed the twinkling lights of a settlement and tavern a little way along the turn to my left. I was too eager - nay, anxious - to get home to even think of staying there this night, but I marked it as a good place to spend the night on the return journey.

    As I went further east I heard rumour of the deepening darkness cast by the Age of Shadows, and a feeling of foreboding came over me and grew with each mile. I continued east all night on the road as with each mile the mountains to the south loomed larger and closer until I came to a place where the road crosses a bridge over an estuarine river with the sea to my left and the mountains hard on my right.

    Here, instead of crossing the river, which would have put the western foothills of the mountains behind me and to my south, I turned right off the road and, staying in the foothills, keeping the mountains on my left as they trended southwest, I so came on a grey dawn to the familiar foothills of my childhood. Now I hurried forward as I approached Leafsta from the east. But even before I came within sight I felt in my bones that something was wrong. At first I could not pinpoint why, but I realised that there was no greeting smoke from the hearths and forges of the settlement that always heralded home. So I approached cautiously, keeping as well-hidden as I could.

    The sight that met my appalled sight was a desolation: a bare hill with ruined stone all that remained of Leafsta, my childhood home. I looked for signs of life but found none, not even skeletal remains, just the odd broken weapon among the rank weeds and tall grass and strange patches of burned and black-scorched ground on which nothing grew. What had happened to my village: my folk, my family, my kin?

    Very little was also left of the stonework, what little remained was standing like broken teeth. Because Leafsta was horseshoe-shaped it looked less like a ruined village and more like a stone henge, the strange stone circles that the magyck-throwers use to travel faster than the blink of an eye. In fact it looked very like the moongate just west of the road from Britain to Trinsic that Aunt Angst hastened us past on our way south. Already several years of undergrowth and rank weeds were pushing up between the ruins. Judging from the size of the weeds and saplings, the village had been abandoned or destroyed not very long after we had left.

    I could in mo way figure out what had happened but I spent the next day searching round in widening circles for any signs of life but found none, just an eerie silence. It was too late to return that day as darkness was gathering, so I camped halfway to the road. I slept but little, my mind in turmoil, thrown between sorrow of loss and hope that my parents or someone survived, and so I was unable to mourn.

    Next day I began the long journey back to the Crossroads. Perhaps Aunt Angst would understand the strange magyck-like signs of devastation I had seen. I at last arrived at the Crossroads of Yew at eventide, the lights twinking in welcome. Here I looked for an inn to stay the night, half hoping, half fearing to hear news of my kin.
  16. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Stonekeep: Headquarters of the Militia Guard of Yew
    What I had hoped would be a settlement with an inn where I could stay the night turned out to be something quite different. What I found instead was much military activity, heavily armored and armed soldiers everywhere going about their business. A closer look showed, to my astonishment, that this was nothing less than a military base, complete with a stone Keep and barracks! I looked around and found a tavern, a church, workshops and other buildings: a small military town, no less! I guessed they must have been away on patrols when I had hurried east that dark and stormy night on my way to Leafsta. And, of course, on the outward journey 5 years ago – no, now 6 years ago – we had bypassed Crossroads by travelling cross-country to the south.

    The Militia "Open Day"
    But there were also a lot of ordinary folk out and about Crossroads and an air of festive expectancy. At the tavern I learned that Stonekeep was the headquarters of a sizeable defensive force, the Guard Militia of Yew, and that tonight it was holding an Open Day: I was about to experience my first ever festive event in the big wide world!

    I was very shy, tongue-tied and without the social graces to engage in banter. I was especially awed by all the soldiers and the pretty girls. So I never plucked up the courage to talk to anyone. The one clumsy attempt I made to talk to a lady was a failure, In my shyness, I talked to her back and I don’t think she even heard my mumbled introduction. For long afterwards I blushed and squirmed with embarrasment when thinking of it. Shortly after my clumsy attempt at an introduction, I listened with amazement to a young gallant (whose name I forget) who tried, quite elegantly - though unsuccessfully as it turned out - to woo this lady whom he addressed as Sally Buttons.

    Although I didn’t know at the time, such first experiences for a youth are typically a disappointment. I went to the tavern for the opening drink but not knowing how to order a drink I just sat, watched and listened. Then I took part in a race but came in one of the last, both times. I just watched the next event a civilian attempt at a military line-up and the following of parade orders. By then it was late, I was tired and upset by the recent events, there was no inn here that I could find, and so I camped for the night before leaving at dawn and heading south for what had by then become "home", our cottage outside Trinsic.

    But what really struck me was that here, just a long day’s march west of Leafsta, was a strong military garrison based around an impressive Keep and dedicated to preserving law and order. Yet it would seem that we Leafstans had never made contact with it, clearly to our great cost and loss.

    a missed opportunity to enquire after the fate of Leafsta
    It was only the evening of the first day as I made camp on the southern borders of the Norse Forest and prepared to take my farewell of the last of my beloved yew trees that it occurred to me that I should have talked to the militiamen to see if they had any news of Leafsta, or indeed had even heard of the place! I had certainly never heard the militia mentioned in Leafsta, but at the time I was, after all, but a child.

    Almost I turned back to enquire at Stonekeep, but I had been away so long and so decided against the extra time it would take - a two-day return trip, plus a dy or two or more for enquiries. I reasoned to myself that Aunt Angst, with her bardic knowledge and close kin with the ruling Fretting Family, would know, if anyone would, whether Leafstans were aware of the existence of the militia and whether the militia had known of Leafsta.

    Looking back, I now think it was a mistake not to have returned to enquire, to at least have found out whether they had any news of the attack on Leafsta or of any survivors (footnote 1).

    1. In retrospect my cousin Smaed would eventually make these enquiries. But that is another story that he may one day recount.
  17. Guest

    Guest Guest

    I finally got around to your post. It made for excellent reading and I look forward to reading more. Incidentally, are you basing your tale on in-game events? Was Leafsta originally a house you shared with friends, but then relocated to another house near Trinsic?
  18. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Glad you like it. No, this is entirely a background, without any relation to an in-game house. I am new to UO and online RPG. The background is purely an aid to help give my characters a history, a geneology, family traditions and personal motives. Its great fun to write and helps give my characters a lot of depth.
  19. Angst

    Angst Guest

    In my endeavour to keep this, the unabridged version of The Book of Leafsta (lodged only here at the White Stag Inn) as compleat as possible, I have added the following page to the book, being a fragment from Smaed's story that he sent me by pidgeon. This is a slightly revised version of a notice pinned up by Smaed on the Yew Guardsmen Militia notice board, mainly correcting spelling and other minor errors and omissions. The abbey referred to is, of course, Empath Abbey, near Yew.

    Agnes Fretting
    Delver's Croft, outside Trinsic

    an ordinary day
    Posted by Footman Smaed Fretting, 2004-02-01.

    ”Aum’n”. Smaed opened his eyes and raised them to the arching vaults of Stonekeep Church, struck as ever by their grace and beauty. He sat for a while in silent contemplation.

    Yesterday had been busy, starting with his usual prayers in the empty church. Later, he had met a new trainee, Wrenthal Roberts, and together they had scrubbed, dusted and cleaned the church in preparation for tomorrow's Sunday Mass, then escorted a lady called Layla, afear’d for swamp creatures, to the Abbey. Then after a drink and darts together in tavern, Smaed and Wrenthal joined a patrol first to the Guard's Eastern Outpost, then to the swamp.

    Smaed smiled grimly to himself. Yesterday was why he had signed up with the Yew Militia: to help protect local folk and local communities - settlements like Yew, Underhill and Kallahar - from the fate of Leafsta, and to do his very small bit to keep the bog denizens down, and, mayhap, one day help cleanse the bogstank, bringing back the unique splendour of the yew forest. He rose with a sigh, bowed to the alter and left, dropping 50 gold in the beadle chest.
    (dictated to, and heavily edited by, an Abbey scribe)
  20. Angst

    Angst Guest

    The small kitchen of Digger’s Croft was cluttered with pots and pans and the clay oven gave off the heavenly aroma of freshly-baked bread. Jern carefully removed the message from the homing pigeon, flattened the note on the kitchen table with his large calloused hands, then read it aloud: “Smaed has furlough from the Yew Militia for the first 2 weeks of March and he’s coming to visit us!” He grinned across the table to his aunt kneading dough.

    Angst paused in her work, giving him that enigmatic smile that told Jern she already knew this from her peculiar ability that she called “The Sight”. He smiled back ruefully, furrowed his brow in thought as he counted on his fingers, then continued:

    “Its late-February now, and still deep winter in the Norse Forest. ’ll be nice for him to leave the frozen north and enjoy the Trinsic spring. And its unusually early this year – already the first flowers are peeking though. Why, only yesterday on my way to the hills to do some mining, I saw my first campion of the year: never seen one that early before. It doesn’t usually flower ‘til March…”

    At that, Aunt Agnes’ seemed to have an idea and her face lit up. “I know what we can do! When Smaed comes we could go for picnics in the Hidden Valley, sit under the palm trees and bask in the sun. Wouldn’t that be wonderful! Jern nodded enthusiastically, but after a moment added, “Even better, we could set up camp there and have a real holiday in the sun. I could do with a break from mining and smeeding”.

    So it was agreed. Jern aired his bedroll, sharpened his knife, topped up his lantern with oil and checked over his other camping equipment. Then he drew up a list of things they would need to buy, went in to Trinsic to shop, and he and Aunt Agnes prepared for Smaed’s arrival and their eagerly-awaited holiday in the sun.
  21. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Yay! I've been waiting on the continuation of this tale! /php-bin/shared/images/icons/smile.gif
  22. Angst

    Angst Guest

    late April 2004
    (revised version of Jern's Journal on the Serf Public Forum by Jern Fretting, written with help from Aunt Angst)

    Smaed, Aunt Angst and I had enjoyed a great time together: good food and drink, much rest and relaxation, congenial company and lots of warm sunshine, but now it was over.

    Smaed had seemed ill at ease and unsure of himself at the start of his visit, though he picked up noticeably as time went by. It gradually emerged that he was finding life at Stonekeep tough. He had joined an outfit where most trainees brought with them experience with a weapon, but he had come as a raw recruit with no weapon skill at all - in addition to his physical clumsiness and lack of social graces - and so his self-confidence had taken a severe knock. Most of the soldiers there were friendly enough, in fact remarkably tolerant of his clumsiness and lack of skills - even his cluelessness - that clearly irritated some of the veterans. Sargeant Griffith and Smaed’s Templi confessor had both been supportive (Smaed seems to have taken comfort in religion and had become regular in his devotions in Stonekeep Church) and some soldiers even went out of their way to mentor and help him, especially the Yreap siblings, Hans and Elizabeth, whom he spoke warmly of. But he was clearly shaken by how hard he found it, while still being determined to stick to it.

    To both my and Aunt Angst’s growing wonder, Smaed kept delaying his departure. There was plenty of excuse to keep him occupied, helping out on the croft, and the weeks passed without any sign that he was leaving.

    He did finally, but reluctantly, leave in late April - some six weeks later than planned. The leave-taking had been harder for me than I had expected. I took farewell of my cousin with emotions that took me by surprise by their strength. I was gripped by the home-longing for the Yew Forests and longed to travel north with my reluctant cousin. It felt supremely ironic that the one who wants to go has to stay behind while the one who leaves wants nothing more than to stay! Aunt Agnes clearly didn’t know how to respond to this, and later she told me that her heart went out to both her fostersons.

    I had just waved cousin Smaed off from the doorstep of Delver's Croft and watched him disappear northwards on his way back to Stonekeep. Still fighting to keep back the tears, I went back inside and sat slumped at the kitchen table opposite my aunt, deep in thought, exercised both by the irony of Smaed’s situation and my own. I blinked away tears, trying to swallow the lump that seemed to be stuck in my throat. How I missed the Norse Forest, with its magnificent yew trees and the mountain peaks rearing above the verdant canopy! The homelonging felt like a stone lodged in my heart. Aunt Angst noticed of course, but said nothing.

    I swallowed hard and cleared my throat to make sure I was in sufficient command of my emotions to speak in a normal voice. “No good sitting here” I said gruffly, “I’d better get back to work”. Aunt Angst said nothing, but looked at me with compassion. I quickly rose from the table and left, before letting the tears flow where there was nowt but the browsing livestock to notice.

    Once outside and busy mining, I shook off much of my melancholy. There is nothing better than hard work to alleviate the homelonging blues. But I thought much about my reactions. I realised that I found living in Trinsic difficult. Status differences were large and people had a wide circle of acquaintances but few or no intimate relationships or close friendships.

    Smaed may have trouble adapting to soldiering, but I found the social graces of the big city just as trying. Smaed may well be militarily incompetent (not that I would know) but I was certainly socially incompetent. It was very important to be able to keep up entertaining and amusing banter with people who were just acquaintances in a bustling city. And I guessed from my brief earlier visit to the Militia Open Day at Stonekeep that this was also true there.

    I realised that both of us had been torn away from our village of close kin where there are no "acquaintances" because everyone knows everyone, then after that being brought up until our mid-teens in an isolated croft. So it was not surprising that we both felt out of place in communties that are quite different.

    It would take time for both of us to adjust. I – and Smaed for that matter – must just get on with our lives, gradually learn and adjust and and be patient. The fact that I was an insignificant serf helped a lot and I got by simply be doing a lot of bowing and scraping to my betters.

    But the sense of isolation was acute and I promised myself that one day I would make the long and dangerous journey back to my beloved yew forests, if only for a visit.
  23. Angst

    Angst Guest

    A packhorse named Spark
    Late April 2004

    The shadow of my outline danced eerily on the cave wall in the light of my lantern, as I swung my pickaxe to loosen one last pile of ore and sweep it into my backpack. I leaned on my pickaxe in the cave and wiped the sweaty ore dust from my face. Hard work was certainly a good antidote to the homelonging. I hefted the backpack to feel its weight: yes, it was pretty full - another load of ore successfully mined.

    I picked up the lantern, extinguishing it as I left the cave before wearily and with bent back turning for the return trudge to Trinsic. With each mining trip I was feeling more and more frustrated by the small amount of iron ore I could carry. Not that I was a weakling – far from it. But as my smithying improved and I began to be able to make more difficult items that needed many ingots, my need for ingots increased, so that one backpack load of ore now gave me insufficient ingots to work with, even by smelting items to re-use the ingots.

    I was becoming a pretty good miner, especially as smelting ores into ingots was also a mining skill - but I felt I had almost stopped making progress as a blacksmith. Perhaps I should just forget about smithying as a trade and instead concentrate on making ingots to sell? I had already banked hundreds of dull copper ingots and scores of bronze, copper and even shadow ingots. I would never be hereditory Mayor of Leafsta, so why bother trying to follow in my father's footsteps and becoming a Master Blacksmith?

    How many mining trips had I made now, I wondered? Counting back over the weeks it must be well over a hundred. My mind went back to the time I went mining with a young lady, who was then still, like me, an average smith. She was mounted on a giant beetle-like creature: I shuddered at the memory of that gross insect with mandibles the size of a bear-trap. I asked her why she didn’t use a packhorse instead, and she explained that they keep getting killed by predatory wild creatures, so a mount made more economic sense.

    I hadn’t paid so much attention to this matter at the time, as the imbalance between mining and smithying had not then become acute. But the imbalance was gradually getting worse and I had increasingly thought about it in the weeks before Smaed’s Trinsic visit. I needed a beast of burden to enable me to carry enough ore to make decent amounts of ingots to work with. A mount was out of the question: it would be above my station in life to ride a horse, let alone anything more exotic. I shuddered at the image of a serf riding a horse, putting on airs and graces.

    I finally decided to buy a packhorse, and went to the stables next to the Travellers Inn to examine the stock. Knowing nowt about animals I chose a lively grey mare, and prayed her teeth were good and she was in reasonable health. I had no sooner bought her than she almost ended my career with a well-aimed kick. So I called her Spark, meaning “kick” in Leafstan as well as the fact that the same Britannian word seemed appropriate as a beast of burden for someone who works at a forge and anvil.

    I noticed on my first mining trip with Spark that I couldn’t control her from attacking every hostile creature she saw, and she regularly killed mongbats. But I took care to beat a hasty retreat as soon as I glimpsed a giant serpent - a nest of which seems to exist in the Trinsic jungle, and one sometimes ventured near the cave. If I saw one I would immediately return to Trinsic, stable Spark and hire a guard to go out and kill the serpent. Sometimes I even hired a guard to escort us and stand on guard while I mined.

    Spark has proved to be invaluable. I was amazed at how much ore she could carry - 500 shovels of ore or more, compared to only 25 or so (apart from other essential items) in my backpack. This meant that on each mining trip I could mine vastly more ore which in turn gave me a lot more time at the forge and anvil to improve my smithying skills between mining trips. With my trusty packhorse I could become a Master Smith yet.
  24. Angst

    Angst Guest

    The copper elemental
    Mid-May 2004
    Spark, who has now bonded with me, has made a big difference, giving me more time at the forge after each mining trip. I have started completing more challenging bulk orders and my smithing is noticably improving. One side-effect of this is that I have not just started earning some impressive amounts of gold – deposited directly in my bank – but I also receive useful items, like a prospector’s tool and sturdy pickaxes that last much longer – up to four times longer - than those I normally buy from the tinker’s.

    I went mining with one of these pickaxes the other day and had worked my way quite far down the cave mineshaft leading to the Hidden Valley and had almost filled Spark’s panniers when a bizarre large human-like figure made out of what looked like silver or copper appeared out of nowhere. It loomed over me and started to attack me. I immediately retreated, thankful that Spark didn’t react by attacking it, but dutifully following me instead. We made it out of the cave but glancing back hastily I saw it was pursuing us. I continued to head for the main city gate with my heart in my mouth and breathed a sigh of relief when we arrived safely.

    I was very shaken and didn’t realise how badly wounded I had been. Another hit and I would have been a goner! So after spending some time healing my wounds I couldn’t just stable Spark without first emptying his panniers, so I went to the forge and did the smelting and forging, almost completing another bulk order deed before then stabling Spark.

    I then went and hired a private guard, one with full plate armour and shield. I told her what I wanted and described the figure that attacked us. She told me it was almost certainly an elemental of some kind, probably a copper elemental. I returned with her cautiously to the mine entrance, moving slowly from bush to bush to take advantage of cover. We got into the cave and went down almost all the way. No sign of the figure. So we returned to Trinsic and I dismissed the guard.

    In the Inn I was preparing to sleep and was checking my equipment. I took a closer look at the pickaxe and realised it was not an ordinary sturdy one but one with grotesque gargoyle faces carved in the handle. I checked the city tome-library for what this was and it turns out to be a pickaxe made by gargoyles and therefore yielding more expensive ores – that would explain why for the first time I had mined some gold ore! Here it also explained that there was a chance using this kind of pickaxe would awake an elemental who would immediately attack the miner.

    Hmm, not worth the risk. Next day I dumped the pickaxe into my bankbox and bought new ordinary tinker-made axes…
  25. Guest

    Guest Guest

    I have been away from the White Stag Inn for some time. I took a trip to Colorado and then have busied myself with actually playing UO. This evening, I was looking for a bit of inspiration to carry me through my own writing projects and I found you had added more to your tale! So have you begun basing Jern's Journal upon your in-game exploits? The packhorse and copper elemental all seem very familiar for those of us who have played miners. Incidentally, which shard do you play?
  26. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Thanks, Sable, its nice to get some feedback. Yes, its become in-game. I'm on Europa Trammel.
  27. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Love divided between Trinsic and the Norse Forest

    It had all started so promising. Some time back, I had unexpectedly and to my amazement inherited a stone tower in the Yew Forest, left in the will of one of the distant relatives of Sally Buttons. I was overjoyed. At last I had a home in the forests of my birth! I would, of course, call it “Leafsta”…

    Making the long journey north I met my benefactor, a very superior-looking knight called Annis, at the Yew wytchgate, which was the agreed meeting-place. She looked distatefully at me down the length of her aristocratic nose, and escorted me the last stretch, commanding me to keep two paces behind her. She was very disdainful to have to deal with a smelly serf like me but I just kept tugging my forelock and saying "yes ma’am, no ma’am three bags full, ma’am…"

    After what seemed like a long way, we arrived. The tower was simple but well-built, and, despite other properties crowding it, I immediately fell in love with the place. After a brief tour of inspection I went through the property-transfer procedures in something of a daze.

    The first thing I did when I returned to Trinsic was to go shopping. And from the Hidden Valley Ironworks I bought a reasonably-priced spinning wheel and loom, to make those essential bandages. Next on my shopping list was a forge and anvil, but Smaed’s arrival, on furlough from the Yew Guardsmen Militia (see above) intervened, and what he told me about the new house quickly dashed my hopes and threw cold water on my plans, as the location proved not at all convenient for a miner/blacksmith.

    Smaed, who by now had explored and wandered over much of the Norse Forests had been to visit it as soon as he had heard of the legacy and reported that it was a long way from the ore deposits of the Serpentspine Mountains. Worse, he had further reported that he had been unable to find anywhere in the whole of the Yew region where it would be possible to stable my packhorse. This part of Sosaria is verily the back of beyond! Then to cap it all, Smaed further reported that the long and perilous route to the ore deposits from the house was through dangerous country, partly because of the highway robbers that infected the forests - making the single east-west road dangerous for lone travellers - and partly because the forests here were full of ettins, ogres, giant spiders and other terrifying monsters indescribable and un-named.

    Truly was the Deep Forest well-named, far from civilisation of any kind. So I had to face the fact that the location of the Norse Forest house was not a practical base from which to practice my smithing craft.

    Now Smaed had returned north and I had to reconsider. The house had remained empty for quite some time now. Disappointment and frustrated, I found myself staring north as if hoping to see the distant yew trees and hear the sough of the wind in their branches. I was back in my old melancholy homelonging mood. Snap out of it, Jern!

    I considered abandoning smithying and taking up a craft more suited to the forests: carpentry perhaps. This seemed like the perfect solution at first but slowly it dawned on me how attached I had become to Trinsic with its friendly serfs and its aristocrats and its kind and very noble Duke, its city shops and facilities – not to mention my faithful packhorse that I would have to sell – quite apart from me realising how much I wanted to continue the family tradition with the eldest son of the Leafsta Frettings always a master blacksmith.

    I realised that the option of a permanent move from Trinsic didn’t appeal. So what should I do?

    Many sleepless nights I passed trying to find the solution. I realised I felt torn in two. It was so typical of the rootless immigrant to dream of returning to his remote homeland, while at the same time with each passing year putting down stronger roots, making friends and slowly but surely feeling more at home in the big city…

    Then one day Aunt Angst was recounting a bard’s tale of a girl with the strange name of High Dee, and her curious migrant life, temporarily herding on the higher south-facing slopes during the warm time of the year. It seemed that each crofting family would build a summer cottage, or shieling, there and each spring would move in to it with their sheep and cattle from where they could watch and guard their herds while they grazed the rich and nourishing new grass, before returning with their animals to their lowland crofts at the end of summer.

    I thought no more of this until I woke up in the night from a dream, in which I was chopping down trees round my new house in the Norse Forest. To make pasture for my herds? But I don’t have any herds… Then it struck me: chopping down trees – lumberjacking! Perhaps I could use my house as a seasonal home, a summer cottage, where I could develop some other skill, not to replace smithing, but as a complementary skill.

    Slowly the idea took shape in my mind’s eye. Herding would need an enclosure, but that would in turn need a piece of land that I didn’t have. But trees were in abundance, of course. So perhaps I could take up carpentry after all? I could make furniture and other items for my new home!

    The more I thought about it the more appealing the idea was. Carpentry might be a marvelous complementary skill to smithying: summers in the Norse Forest practicing carpentry and winters smithing at Jenell's warm forge in Trinsic.

    The idea needed time to mature and take practical shape. Meanwhile it was time to take Spark out and go mining…
  28. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Stonekeep, Spring 380

    The sea mist had hung between the trees, clinging to everything with its chilly embrace. This far north spring came late and the har off the cold sea could always be seen offshore, sometimes drifting far inland, though rarely this far.

    Smaed entered the beautiful stone church in the small town of Stonekeep, home of the Yew Militia. The church was empty in the early morn of this, the first day of his furlough. He walked down the aisle to the altar, bowed to the ankh on it, sat on the front pew and made his devotions.

    He was to depart on the long and dangerous journey to Trinsic to visit his foster-family. There spring was already well-advanced, and at the end of his long journey he looked forward to some late spring warm sunshine, and, of course, time with Aunt Angst and cousin Jern. He was making his last devotions in the church he so loved. After his aum’n had echoed away into the arched vaults, he sat in quiet contemplation for a while.

    He remembered the day he left Trinsic to join the Yew Militia. His foster-brother Jern had returned from the Norse Forest where he had found that Leafsta, their home village, was no more, their families disappeared without trace. Jern it had been who had discovered on the return journey the small military town of Stonekeep.

    Smaed had been horrified at the fate of Leafsta and the loss of his beloved mother, father, sister and brother. Why, oh why, didn’t the villagers explore more widely and learn of the existence of the militia!? As Aunt Angst had explained, our elders’ strategy had been to lie low and rely on our own strong walls. We didn’t even have any rangers to speak of, and those we had only patrolled the forests near the village. What naive fools we had been…

    Smaed had decided there and then that he would go to Stonekeep and sign on. He would train as a ranger - a waywatcher as he later learned the militia called their rangers - and patrol the ways of the forest. It was too late to save Leafsta but he would do his bit to see that the remaining local villages remained safe.

    The Yew Militia had been a tough school for a green and very young trainee. Only 15 when he had turned up at Stonekeep, he had lied about his age, so they would allow him to take the king’s shilling. But his first months had been a total shock. He had come with no martial skills at all and quickly noted that every other trainee starting around the same time as he did had at least average competence with a weapon, commonly the shortbow. He stumbled over his feet a lot trying to get in line, much to the officers’ exasperation, and he was often tongue-tied and so thought of as somewhat withdrawn. He was better now, but still not as competent as most beginner trainees.

    Being in the militia had been hugely challenging and he learned to overcome his fear of orcs, swampmonsters, liches, and the denizens of many a dungeon on the patrols he was ordered to join. Close-order formation-fighting was much harder than it looked. He still felt bewildered by the speed at which he was expected to act and react, he still hacked wildly,wounding his comrades in his haste, and was too slow by far to give first aid to those fighting by his side. The frustration of his officers was sometimes apparent.

    The militia men and women were tough and simple soldiers, many with backgrounds they never talked about and most were hard drinkers. But they had seemingly limitless patience with the recruits. The soldiery of Stonekeep was the salt of the earth, hearts of oak some called them – or as he thought of them – “hearts of yew”, a wood equally tough and even more long-lived.

    It was true that a few were bullies, but many were good and loyal comrades. He was particularly thankful to his mentor, Hans Yreap, and Hans’ sister Elisabeth who had both taken him under their respective wings. And now Smaed was in his seventeenth year and already hardened enough to be promoted to a lowly footman.

    More of a surprise to Smaed was the existence of several settlements in these vast forests. The most important was the Abbey which, apart from being both a house of healing and a hospice, provided within its walls banking and provisoner services. He had made some friends there among the scribes and healers, notably the scribe Conrad who helped him pen his messages. It was also well-defended.

    But there were also several other forest settlements apart from the abandoned town of Yew in the middle of the swamp. Underhill was one, where the racially diverse shirefolk lived, but also Kallahar, home of the Celtic tribe, and others he had but heard of, like Silverleaf and a small pixie settlement somewhere in the forest. Smaed identified with these simple but tough country folk: he saw them as the bearers of the pioneering settler tradition that Leafsta had been part of, and felt fiercely protective of them.

    Smaed sighed and rose from the churchbench. He bowed to the altar, then turned and walked back up the aisle, dropped a handful of coins into the offerings chest by the west door and walked out into the pale morning sunlight that was rapidly dispersing the mist. He checked his backpack once more and donned his coif. Taking a last glance at the tavern opposite, he looked down the road. A grin spread across his face. Then lustily singing "Are ye goin' to Trinsic Fayre" he set off at a swinging pace, towards the Crossroads of Yew and the highway south.
  29. Angst

    Angst Guest

    The journey to Trinsic, Late spring 380

    Just as he was leaving Stonekeep behind him, Smaed met a trainee hurrying the other way. From her he learned that militiaman Hans Yreap was sailing shortly for Trinsic from his berth by Empath Abbey to buy ale and wine for the militia stores.

    This was too good an opportunity to miss. Apart from being Smaed’s mentor, Hans was a keen sailor and even before he joined the Militia's Naval Division as a rookie corsair he owned a sailing ship. Smaed leapt at the chance to sail with Hans and into the bargain to save several wearisome days on the road.

    So without further thought he turned about and went to the abbey at the appointed time, finding several militia men and women already gathered there and about to leave. Smaed smiled to himself. There was always much activity in the Militia and unexpected opportunities such as this turned up from time to time. Adaptability was the key…

    Hans was a skilled navigator and Smaed was thrilled by this his first experience of sailing. Smaed knew nought of ships, though he could see it had one large mainsail, but in chatting to the tillerman before they cast off, he explained to Smaed this was single-masted and square-rigged.

    Despite the cold, Smaed stood at the prow, revelling in the wind and sea spray and the rolling and pitching of this obviously lively vessel. About halfway to Trinsic a ship with a dragon prow passed by them that Smaed recognised from an old folktale his mother Millie used to tell him about life in the Norse Isles. They also saw schools of dolphins and once in his exposed place at the prow, Smaed was attacked by a sea monster, his life only saved by Hans’ quick reactions and healing skills.

    The weather became noticably milder as they sailed south and soon the ramparts of Trinsic became visible on the horizon. This voyage had been an adventure to remember for life. It was too late to go to Delver’s Croft that day as darkness was falling. So waving farewell to his comrades, Smaed went to the nearby Rusty Anchor Inn to spend the night, going on the next morning to the croft.
  30. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Delver’s Croft, near Trinsic, Late Spring 380

    Days of sun, rest and picnics under the palm trees

    The meeting with his aunt and cousin the following day was joyous and merry, and much earlier than Smaed could have hoped. Going by sea had saved hm much time. Smaed slept like a log and was woken late by the sunshine streaming in through the windeye and the scent wafting in from the yellow honeysuckle vine on the croft’s south-facing wall. It was already warm. He got up and in one bound reached the window, to peer out on the small vegetable and herb garden. The dew was glistening on the vine, the tulips in full bloom and the cherry trees in blossom. He could hear a cockrel crowing, welcoming in the day, a blackbird in song and a cuckoo call mingled with more distant birdsong. Soon the swallows would be arriving…

    Smaed smiled. H was again struck by what a different climate it was here from the Norse Forest. When he had left Stonekeep the first signs of spring had barely begun, beyond the swelling of buds on the trees that awoke the earliest of them after their winter sleep. Spring came to Yew both late and suddenly, as soon as the ocean fog-banks had dispersed. And then it turned quickly into full summer.

    So spring was the season when the contrast between the climates of Trinsic and Yew was at its greatest. And a little further south from Delver’s Croft was the subtropical Hidden Valley with its palm trees and exotic birdlife. And beyond that was the steaming jungle with its wild growth of strange tropical plants, gorillas, alligators, giant serpents and many other strange creatures.

    The days passed in luxurious rest. Often he would accompanied Jern on his mining trips to the Hidden Valley. But while Jern mined, Smaed would sit under a palm tree and doze, feeling the warm sun on his eyelids. He could hear the rhythmic sound of Jern’s pick as he mined ore in the hills a short distance away, alternating with the sound of ore being shovelled into his pack and by the occasional whinneying of Jern’s packhorse, Spark.

    Other days they all three shared a picnic in the Hidden Valley, sitting on a blanket under their favourite palm tree, the food and beer laid out before them, laughing and joking. Smaed was having a wonderful time. Pampered by Aunt Angst, he had put on weight. Jern didn’t even let him fetch water and chop wood. So he had just sat in the sun and done nothing, letting the calusses on his swordhand begin to soften.
  31. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Delver’s Croft, near Trinsic, Early Summer 380

    A shock discovery

    The days slipped quickly by and soon it was time to return to Stonekeep. Smaed was reluctant to leave and became more so as first the days, then the weeks, slipped by. But he knew he must return. Time is its own healer and so Smaed found he was becoming increasingly restless in the last few days. It was nice to be pampered and to share time with his foster-family but he was starting to feel a bit bored, the road called him and he felt it was high time to go home to Stonekeep and the Norse Forest, however much he was held here. After several postponements of his departure he was by now quite looking forward to getting back to soldiering, feeling renewed and invigorated.

    The day came for Smaed to leave. He had already said farewell when Aunt Angst and cousin Jern left at the crack of dawn for their days work: Aunt Angst to the river to wash, beat and dry clothes and Jern for a day’s work mining, smelting and smithing.

    The leave-taking had been hard for them both. Aunt Angst because she had come to love him like a mother in the years since they arrived in Trinsic together from Leafsta, and Jern because he had always been close to his older foster-brother, and, Smaed suspected, because Jern was suffering from the home-longing for the lands of his birth.

    He went round the croft for a last check to make sure he had not left anything behind. He noticed he seemed to have misplaced the book of the laws of war that militiamen carried and it didn’t turn up after rummaging through his pack. So he searched more carefully, even turning over a pile of papers belonging to Aunt Angst on the kitchen desk.

    It was whilst doing this that he laid his hand to a formal-looking piece of vellum that would change his life forever. It mentioned his name and looked like a will. Smaed picked it up and scanned it quickly, then gasped aloud. Hardly believing his eyes, he read it again but this time carefully:

    "I, Agnes Fretting, being of sound mind, hereby leave Delver's Croft to my brotherson (nephew) Jern Fretting and all other possessions, including the contents of my bankbox, to my natural-born son Smaed Fretting. The original signed and witnessed version of this Will is with Talis."

    Agnes Fretting (signed)

    Feeling weak-legged, he sat down hard on the nearest chair, jaw slack and eyes unseeing. How could this be? His father and mother were Smaed and Millie Fretting, and they had clearly loved him dearly. He was even named after his father…
  32. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Delver’s Croft, Early Summer 380

    Confronting the truth

    Smaed’s shock turned quickly to a rising anger. Why hadn’t his aunt - no, his mother - not told him as soon as they knew that it was unlikely that his parents - no, his foster-parents - had survived the end of Leafsta? How dare she keep from him this knowledge! Did Agnes not love him as a son? But yes, she gave every impression that she did…

    He got up and paced angrily round the room like a caged lion. He must confront her, and get from her the full truth: especially who his father was! And he would go down to the river immediately to do so.

    He strode out of the door, hot with his fury. But then he stopped abruptly, realising that he knew not where to go. Just here at Trinsic there were numerous rivers and streams and many different places on each to which she could have gone to do the washing. She would need to find somewhere accessible that had smooth rocks against which to beat the washing and lay it out to dry. He realised he could walk all day and not find her…

    His fury cooled to an icy anger and he went back inside, slamming the door behind him so that the croft shook. He needed to think. And as he sat alone in the kitchen and tried to gather his thoughts he began to wonder who Talis was. Wasn’t the ranger who escorted them from Leafsta to Trinsic called Talis? Could he even be Smaed’s father? Or just a messenger for his mother? He needed to find out more.

    His eyes narrowed as an idea took form in his mind. He would search the house to see if he could find some other information. Aye, she kept a diary, did she not! So he began to conduct a systematic search of the croft.

    There were piles of papers and books everywhere – as one would expect a bard such as his mother to have. It did not take too long before he unearthed several books each, marked “My Personal Diary: private and confidential”. Smaed experienced a twinge of conscience to be prying into his aunt’s – mother’s – private papers. But he had a right to know his origins!

    Taking them to the table, his hands trembling with anticipation, he sat down and began to read, starting with the diary including the year before his birth headed Spring 364 to Spring 374. Smaed started to read:


    <font color=blue>Spring 364
    My 18th birthday promised to be ordinary but turned out to be the turning point of my life. The weather was warm and sunny, with just a few fluffy clouds drifting eastwards overhead.

    My party, held in the garden, was livened up when a stranger came to Leafsta. He was tall and fair and wore travel-worn green garb. He caused something of a sensation because he was not only a stranger, a rare visitor, but an elf!

    He introduced himself as Talis the ranger and had come from the north coast of the Deep Forest. He had an aura of enchantment about him and I fell in love with him immediately.

    We soon wandered off into the trees and were deep in animated converse, lost to the rest of the world. I knew then that he was to be my true love: a foreknowledge that was to be my first experience of the Sight.

    We made love beneath the trees, and he left promising to return as soon as he may to claim me as his bride. I passed the rest of the party in a dream and remembered little of it.

    Summer 264
    I knew soon that I would bear his child and I was both full of joy but also apprehensive. For once my pregnancy showed I was castigated for bringing shame on the Frettings. Who the father was I refused to reveal to any.</font color=blue>

    Smaed turned very pale, stopped reading and gasped: “my… my… father is an elf?” His jaw hung slack for many moments as he took in the full import of this information, and he involuntarily fingered the militiaman's badge he bore. Then he continued reading:

    <font color=blue>Winter 364
    I was saved by a twist of fate when Millie, my sister-in-law, gave birth on the same day as me.

    But her infant lived but a few hours. Millie and I were alone in the birthing room at the time her baby died. We looked at each other and in wordless recognition came to a silent understanding. I passed across to her my little Talis, receiving in turn her dead child.

    Autumn 369
    She named my son Smaed after her husband, and they loved him as their own. But we were in fear while Smaed grew up that his race would betray the switch. But he looks not like a half-elf but passes for a man.

    <hr></blockquote></font color=blue>
    So that was how he came to be adopted by his parents! (for a crude rendering of the Fretting family tree see post#11 in: Jerns Journal) Smaed shook his head in astonishment...

    <font color=blue>Five years have passed and Talis has not yet returned. Oh how my heart aches for him!

    Winter 371
    Came the fated day when The Sight showed me that the doom of Leafsta was nigh. That decided me to leave for Trinsic and save those who would be saved. I planned with care, deciding to leave as soon as spring arrived.

    Early Spring 372
    Fate decreed that Talis came once more to Leafsta, just as I was about to leave. We met joyously and he delighted in the news of his son. He agreed to escort us to Trinsic. With me came my nephew Jern Fretting, son of my brother Tongs, heir of Mastersmith Bellows. Also with me came my natural son Smaed, son of Millie and Smaed Fretting. I had longed for him to come but could not ask this of Millie. But she wanted him to go for which I will ever be grateful.

    And so Talis met his 8 year old son for the first time and was overborn with wonder and joy. Those weeks we journeyed south were sweet, yet we dared not reveal Smaed’s paternity to the boys. For Millie fully expected me to return Smaed to her, should it become clear the Sight had failed me. For she and her husband loved Smaed dearly and were prepared to give him up even if he survived and they did not.

    <hr></blockquote></font color=blue>
    Smaed understood immediately why Millie let him go with Agnes. Knowing that Smaed was Agnes’ son would have been enough for her to offer this. No foster-mother could deny the birthmother her own natural son to go with her to safety.

    <font color=blue>Early Summer 373
    Talis left us with Digs at his croft. I have not seen him since but now I know where to find him.

    Spring 374
    My distant relative Digs Delver has died, old in the fullness of his</font color=blue>


    The last line on the last page of the book remained incomplete, and no doubt continued in the next diary. But his search was over. He know knew the given name of his father, and where to search for him: on the north coast of the Norse Forest. More important, he knew that his father was an elf, and so he himself was half-elven. Smaed closed his eyes and began to absorb what he had here learned. His world was shaken to its very foundations.
  33. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Delver’s Croft, Early Summer 380


    Smaed now had some decisions to make. He had first to decide whether he should stay until his mother returned and confront her, and perhaps find out more about his father and his parents’ plans. The alternative would be to leave immediately for the Norse Forest and begin the seach for his father. He decided he would do the latter.

    Later he would regret that he had not waited: he would only have lost a day and would have been able to at least bring the issue out in the open with his mother and perhaps also learn exactly where to find his father. But he had already said goodbye once and he was still angry with her and it gave him some satisfaction to leave her in the dark just as she had left him in the dark. He would do this alone!

    And what should he do about his membership of the Militia? Officially, elves were treated by the militia as lesser beings, inherently evil, and to be shunned. The soldier-priests of the Militia openly preached this in church. He remembered well, as a sixteen year-old, the first sunday service he attended at Stonekeep Church, listening to a long rant against elves. Even at the time he felt this was somehow strange. All that hate!

    Yet he also knew that elvish settlements were never attacked by the Militia in the way some orc settlements were: at least not that he was aware of. He had taken part himself in patrols against the orc fort.

    He also knew that some of the villages the militia defended and had concourse with contained a variety of non-human races, including elves. Underhill was one such multi-racial community. And even though mingling with the shirefolk was frowned upon by some of the officers, a number of militiamen did so anyway: as, indeed, he had done. He well remembered an entertainment competiton in Underhill that he had taken part in.

    And had he not himself - without informing his officers - sought out the elves who call themselves the Guardians of the Forest to seek ways to heal the Yew Swamp and return it to the beauty of days of yore? They had spurned his appeal for help and escorted him off their land: so strong was their suspicion of the Militia.

    But the crux of the matter for Smaed was the fact that to his knowledge there were no elven or half-elven militiamen or militiawomen. Some may well be half-elven like himself, keeping their race secret and passing as human. Without realising it at the time he himself had passed as human for two years. But now that he knew he had elven blood in his veins, would he want to live with the official suspicion of - and hostility towards - elves and could he from now on sit through sermons preaching hate? He didn’t think so: he couldn’t be true to himself if he did. No, it wouldn’t do. With a heavy heart he realised that he would have to resign from the militia.

    Smaed prepared to leave as soon as possible. It remained only for him to copy his mother’s dairy into a book of his own, so he had the evidence he needed, and replace the original diary where he had found it. Having done this, he took one last look round the croft where as a child he had spent many happy times, walked out the door and the older but wiser Smaed began the trek north.
  34. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Stonekeep, Midsummer’s Day 380

    Smaed Halfelven resigns from the Militia

    It had been a long and wearisome journey. Smaed had stopped off at the bank in Britain to collect and change into his civies and had packed his militia gear in a bag, together with a note to say he was resigning.

    He arrived at Stonekeep in the small hours. At this time of night at these latitudes it never became completely dark in the middle of summer. But dusk lasted several hours, and it was not much short of complete darkness, so he had kept his lantern lit. Stonekeep was quiet, no-one was around. Now all that remained was to find a place in the town where he could deposit the bag of gear containing his resignation notice.

    Easier said than done! Everywhere – the Citadel, workshop, tavern - chests were locked down and secure. He couldn’t drop the bag into them! He even tried the chest in Stonekeep Church where he had dropped a few coins in the past. It wouldn’t take a bag.

    Frustrated, he returned to the Citadel. Near the locked office where he had originally signed on he took the note out and left it on a table, together with his militiaman badge. He doubted they would still be there when next someone came in, but his resignation was done. The bag he kept, so that if one day he should meet a member of the militia he could hand over the equipment.

    He payed one final visit to the church, and stood at the west end of the ailse, drinking in the peace and silence of this beautiful building. But he could not bring himself to pray. With a sigh he went out into the night air. He had changed much since he had last been here. He took one last look at the town he had spent two years of his life in, casting an especially longing glance at The King's Deer Tavern opposite. Then resolutely facing north, Smaed Halfelven took the road to the Abbey.
  35. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Empath Abbey, late Summer 380

    Smaed begins the search for his father

    Smaed was familiar with the way from Stonekeep to the abbey: he had made the journey often as a militiaman. It was dangerous and mostly pathless: a stinking swamp where monsters lay in wait beyond his ability to defeat. He arrived safely, but bemired and exhausted.

    He rested up for a couple of weeks, staying in a room of the abbey hospice, checking his equipment, replenishing his supplies, studying books in the abbey library, and above all making enquiries as to where he might find his father. The abbey itself was on the north coast, so from here he had to decide whether go west or northeast. He had once been on a militia patrol west of the abbey to the Courts of Justice, but had never explored the coasts, so he had no idea which way to go. He decided to talk to the monks. There was an off-chance that Talis was known here, though Smaed doubted that. There was a greater than off-chance that someone in the abbey would know of the existence and location of nearby elven villages.

    So he sought out his old friend Conrad the scribe, but for the first two days could see him nowhere. Then on the third day he was out taking the fresh brine-laden air, and wandered into the vinyard, and there he saw Conrad working in the fields. This was a busy time just before the harvest and the grapes hung almost ripe on the vines.

    They greeted each other warmly. When Smaed had been a militiaman, Conrad had helped him to compose messages, while Smaed had each time given Conrad a handful of coins as an expression of gratitude. These Conrad thankfully took on behalf of the abbey: they were always welcome, he said. Gradually they had become friends, telling each other of their backgrounds and finding comfort and understanding in each other’s company.

    Conrad had lived at Empath all his life. He had been brought there as a foundling and had never been beyond its precincts. So like most reclusive monks he knew little about what lay along the coasts. There were some monks, like the purser and cellerer who had extensive abbey business contacts beyond the walls. There was also, of course, the abbott himself who travelled widely for meetings and for political consultations with kings and rulers as well as abbotts, bishops and other senior churchmen. But Smaed didn’t feel he could approach such busy and important monks about the whereabouts of an elf, or with asking mere directions, and anyway they were quite likely not to know anything of small coastal elven communities.

    Conrad suggested that Smaed talk to the banker in case Talis had been born nearby and so had his bankbox founded here and if that failed ask the tillermen of the sailing ships that were often moored here. There was some trade along the coasts and they might know something, or at least of where to inquire. Smaed felt encouraged by these suggestions.

    He tried the banker first. Randolph consulted his ledger, but could find no Talis among his local-born bank-box holders. So Smaed went to the three ships that happened to be that day moored at the abbey and in turn asked the tillers if they knew where there might be found nearby elven settlements. The first two knew nothing, but the third said that she knew there were elven villages some way towards the north.

    Smaed decided to leave the next day and travel northeast along the coast to look for elven settlements. But he was disheartened by the fact that there was no Talis born locally with a bankbox and had begun to realise that finding a ranger called Talis, or someone who knew of him, might not be as easy as he first thought. He groaned inwardly and began to wish he had waited for his mother. As was apparent from her diary she clearly knew where to find him…
  36. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Empath Abbey, early Autumn 380

    Smaed searches for elven settlements

    He had been planning to leave the next morning, but when he woke the weather was threatening. Through the windeye of his abbey hospice room he could see lowering clouds moving in from the sea, and the air had a rainy smell to it. After he had broken his fast heavy drops of rain were beginning to fall, and soon it was raining steadily under a dark and unbroken cloud-cover that had rapidly moved in. So he delayed his departure.

    It was just as well he did, because it gave him a chance to make more enquiries, stopping people who entered the abbey and asking if they knew of any elven settlements nearby.

    What he learned gave him important additional pieces of the puzzle and put new heart in him. All the evidence pointed to elven settlements to the east, and four were mentioned: the Guardians of the Forest who lived east of the Moongate (and with whom Smaed had dealings when he had been in the militia), Silverleaf on the coast, the Wildwood Elves and the Elves of Andune, both nearby Silverleaf.

    The sun shone in a sky of intense blue above hurrying clouds the morning Smaed finally left. Sniffing the air, it felt cold and fresh, and adjusting his pack, he looked forward to his coastal hike. Turning left outside the abbey main doors, he kept close to the walls until he reached the sea. The land was open greensward here and sloped gently down to the beach. Then he began to walk north following the coastline. A few stunted trees dotted the coastline, all leaning inland to avoid the wind.

    Once beyond the cleared land round the abbey, it became more noticeable that autumn was setting in and that the autumn colours would not be long delayed. It was still not cold, but the last of the fragrant rosehip blooms had wilted, leaving the sour fruits beginning to ripen. On the rowan trees the tight clusters of berries wet-gleamed a bright red. The foliage of some birch trees already showed patches of bright yellow so that when the sun caught the leaves they glistened in the breeze like showers of gold coins.

    The coast here was flat with the grass fading into sand dunes. But as Smaed walked north the coast became undulating and the grass became short and cropped. He was soon walking along the top of white chalk cliffs, looking down at the gulls circling and crying far below him, and inland he could see an occasional building. The short grass made the going easy, but the coast became increasingly indented, with bays and headlands becoming more prominent,forcing him down into the bays then up to the next headland.

    To start with he followed the line of the coast, which meant that he didn’t get far from the abbey. Progress was made even slower with all the detours he made to visit inland villages, and laboriously check each house sign for some sign of elven occupation. But soon the headlands became so prominent that he took short cuts across their base. By dusk he made camp at the base of the longest and narrowest headland yet, from the end of which he could see the abbey, as the crow flies, seemingly only a few miles away in the clear autumn air.

    Next day was more cloudy but also milder. He ate a loaf of bread and set off early. Now he began to detour further inland whenever he saw houses in order to check their names and see if they may indicate elven owners, before returning to the coastal track. But found nothing obviously elven, and the house-owners were nowhere in sight.

    All this meant that progress was painfully slow. After what seemed weeks of this careful exploration he estimated he was only about a long day’s travel in a straight line cross-country to the abbey.

    By now the autumn colours were in their full glory: the birches giant flaming torches of yellow and orange, the rowans afire with red. Inland, sheltered from the sea, the edge of the Deep Forest contained chestnut and sycamore that were a blaze of colour.

    But the days were now preceptible shortening and another autumn storm was fast approaching, visible as a dark unbroken cover of clouds far out to sea but moving perceptibly closer. And the wind was rising. Curbing his frustration, Smaed realised that it might be wise to return to the abbey and abandon the search until spring. He would make more enquiries and take up the hunt from this headland in the spring.
  37. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Part 10
    Empath Abbey, late autumn 380 to spring 381

    A long illness and the return of the ague

    Arriving back at Empath Abbey in that late autumn of the year 380, frozen and soaked, Smaed fell ill with an acute attack of the chills. He developed a fever and a hacking cough deep in his chest. But he was well-tended by the abbey healers, and came especially to appreciate the ministrations of Jena, who gave him healing potions of fever-reducing hot herb-infusions – of slippery elm bark, lobelia and hyssop - and laved his chest with potions of elderberry and blue vervain.

    By the end of autumn, the worst was over and he gradually recovered. But that december he suffered a recurrence of the chronic ague, that he had contracted from swamp midges while hunting boglings in the summer of 378. As a result, he spent his 17th birthday with acute shivering and in a delirious fever - - but recovered by the new year, spending the rest of the winter indoors building up his strength.

    Winter that year was unusually harsh, even by Norse Forest standards, with howling blizzards raging out of the north and deep drifting snow. Packs of wolves crossed the frozen swamps from the east and hunted up to the abbey walls, keeping the guards busy. Sensible folk stayed indoors in a winter that in local folklore came to be known as The Wolfwinter.
  38. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Part 11

    Empath Abbey Spring 381

    Smaed sets out north again

    The offshore ice still covered the sea and so the early spring har had lingered long after the cold winter. Spring had indeed been late in starting that year but eventually it had come – and did so with a rush - as was often so in these high latitudes. Though the nights were still cold, day by day sunrise came noticeably earlier and set later as the sun climbed ever higher into the sky. Then a day came when it suddenly became summerwarm and buds began to swell, and a green shimmer of new growth began to blanket the ground only recently bared by the melting snow, as if in haste to cover its nakedness.

    In the sunny forest glades the yellow coltsfoot peeked between the last rapidly dwindling piles of snow, and swathes of white and blue wood anenome carpeted the forest floor. Birdsong filled the woods. The last of the spring and the first of the summer arrivals of migrant sea birds, including the arctic tern, were in evidence, gulls nesting on the cliffs were beginning hatchings and the last formations of geese could be seen winging northwards. Soon the swallows - whose graceful aerobatics Smaed loved to watch - would arrive...

    Impatient to resume his search, Smaed wasted no time in travelling to the point where last autumn he had turned back. The ground was waterlogged from the melting snow so he had to detour round large pools. Streams that he could cross easily in the autumn were swollen by meltwater and in spate, tumbling noisily over the clifftop, so he was often force to detour upstream to find safe places to cross. All this, together with the mud, made progress slow.

    He had no idea how far away the elven communities were that he sought, but he planned to follow the coast until it began to trend east - as he understood from the maps he had examined that it did. Then, if he had still not found an elven settlement he would shift his search inland, returning to the abbey on an inland course parallel to the coast. He fervently hoped that such a long journey and tedious search would prove not to be necessary.
  39. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Part 12
    North coast, late spring 381

    Smaed pushes further along the coast

    Because of the spring mires and floods it took Smaed two days to cover the same ground that he had covered in one long day in the dry autumn conditions. By late afternoon of the second day he had reached the top of the prominent headland where last autumn he had turned back. From here he could see some way north. Scattered homesteads continued to be evident, either unoccupied or its residents unwilling to show themselves, while inland the forest continued deep and dark.

    Making camp in a grove by a small stream, the next morning he awoke to a light drizzle. A pair of ospreys were nesting in a tall scots pine nearby. Quickly packing his gear he pushed on, down from the headland and along the low clifftops to its north. As he descended, the ground again became sodden with meltwater, some in giant pools that he had to detour widely around. But by then the sun had come out and the sea breeze had freshened, and the air became crystal clear.

    After an hour or so of slow progress the coastal track began again to climb. The ground became drier and soon he had reached the top of another headland that seemed to be even higher and longer than the first.

    From here he could see far, and in the clear air everything seemed deceptively near and in sharp outline so he had a good view north. He could see that the coastal track dropped rapidly to a lower coastline. He was looking down onto what was clearly a little visited part of the coast.

    Here, to Smaed’s astonishment, the cliffs were alive with noisome seabirds. Herring gulls, black-back gulls, kittiwakes, fulmars and puffins seemed to jostle for living space and fill the air, calling and circling, riding the cliff-face upcurrents. Cormorants stood on the beach drying their wings. A large bird of prey, probably a sea-eagle soared, circling on motionless wings on the high airs offshore.

    Looking inland, he could see that settlements were becoming noticeably fewer this far from the abbey, and the forest to his east grew ever deeper and nearer, as if eager to invade and colonise the clifftops. The cliffs here were coursed by icy meltwater cascades, sparkling in the sunlight as they tumbled over the cliffs in long falls.

    Smaed ate a meat pie lunch from his pack then began the descent down the north flank of the headland, along the coastal track. He was now entering a remote and sparsely-populated region of the Deep Forest.

    The track here became less good and the lower he went the more muddy and mired it became, making progress difficult. The sun was already low and would soon be setting in the sea, progress became increasingly slow and Smaed was tired, his strength still not fully recovered after his winter illness. He began to keep an eye open for a suitable place to camp for his third night in the wilderness.
  40. Angst

    Angst Guest

    From my collection of verses and songs
    In my travels I have had many experiences and so have both collected stories and composed verses, putting some of these to song. This is one I particularly like (at time of writing it is the first and only piece I have yet penned in the collection I am putting together), and I dedicate it to Talis, my one true love.

    <center>When shadows age began was shared
    by ranging soldier and castle maid
    one tender night that showed we cared.
    You left, but what you planted stayed.
    But that sweet joy I gave away,
    love’s mirror - though I lost - did stay.

    Yet all returns, nothing dies.
    Feelings spiral on through time.
    Desires and hurts, losses and sighs,
    all flow on in the cosmic climb,
    waiting for love - eternal, unbound -
    to dissolve the pain next time around.

    The years grow us, to seek our fate,
    innocents led by guiding hand
    to where our crossing paths await.
    Here smith’s son stands, with you and I,
    And again eyes meet and feel the pull,
    the urge of our hearts to be full.

    Souls longing days of yore to heal.
    Is this the chance to make it right,
    same place; same fire to seal,
    for child of ours in love so bright?
    Thus we can stay and teach him so,
    to face new hurdles and to grow.

    Yet we fled south to shelter new,
    refugees from Horseshoe’s doom.
    But neither there was place for you,
    in cot with view of city’s loom.
    So again you left, our wounds unhealed
    Mother, grown son, with source revealed.

    Now he wanders, like you, in youth,
    a soldier’s need to find himself.
    Who is this man who hunts his truth,
    Knowing not if man or elf?
    Or if, by sea b‘neath silvery leaves,
    in sight of those fair forest eaves?

    True love of mine I need you near,
    that day we three can, as one, sing.
    My Sight it fails to see that time
    or place in which our love doth wing.
    Our son he hunts, and do now I
    wander ways to search and scry.

    Aye, all returns, nothing dies,
    feelings spiral on through time.
    Desires and hurts, losses and sighs,
    all flow on in the cosmic climb,
    waiting for love - eternal, unbound -
    to dissolve the pain next time around.</center>

    Agnes Fretting
    Penned in Trinsic, 373 Leafsta Reckoning
  41. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Part 13

    North coast, late spring 381

    The finding of the riven dell

    Smaed continued his descent. Well before the coastal track reached the flat coast, less than a day’s march beyond where he had turned back the previous autumn, he could see that the track descended to what looked like an estuary. Smaed sighed. This would probably mean a major detour inland to find a place shallow enough to cross it. Scanning the terrain from his vantage point he could see that inland from the estuary was what looked like a shallow wooded valley that further inland appeared to deepen into a clefted and tree-clad dell running east-west diagonally across his path.

    The nights were growing shorter, noticeable almost day by day, but the shadows had been lengthening for some time and now at last dusk was falling. He could see smoke rising from chimneys somewhere in the dell and the welcoming gleam of lights from windows. It looked very much like a village, the first he had come upon on this journey. It would make sense, he thought, to head straight for it, for like as not there would be a ford there to cross by.

    So Smaed left the coastal track and turned inland. He struck a barely-visible track that soon entered the trees of the Deep Forest before descending steeply down a northfacing tree-clad slope. Sheltered from the wind and away from the clamour of the beach surf, the stillness was almost tangible. As he reached the bottom he could hear a brook that tumbled and sang with the sound of silvery bells on its way to the sea.

    Here in the dell spring was far more advanced than on the exposed coast and the vegetation was rich and verdant, with springy moss underfoot and suggesting a deep loam beneath. Somewhere a nightingale sang and a cuckoo was calling. A woodpecker’s staccato tapping could be heard on a tree trunk some way upstream. Many different kinds of trees grew here – those on the southfacing dellside opposite were already in blossom – cherry, beech, crabapple and hornbeam. The scent of fragrant herbs lay on the dell- the pungent star of bethlehem mingling with anise, fennel, angelica and vervain. Curious trees, the like of which he had never seen before, shimmered strangely silvern in the rapidly-fading half-light. The dell had an aura of enchantment about it that he had never experienced before and that he could put no name to.

    He began to walk upstream to where he had seen the lights. Passing first a barn then a byre he approached the first building on the banks of the brook, he saw that it was half-timbered and built with its north wall backing to the brook and a south-facing porch entrance in the style of many a Sossarian tavern. Streaming from its windows was a warm and welcoming light, and from within he could hear the fair voice of a maiden singing in a strange language. Reaching the house he looked up at the sign and read:
    Silverleaf Tavern, owned by Phoenix.

    Slowly a smile spread across his face. This was surely the elven village called Silverleaf…
  42. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Part 14

    The riven dell, late spring 381

    Silverleaf Tavern

    Smaed stood still, enchanted, listening for a few moments to the singing. Then, mounting the porch and passing between two welcoming flambeau cressets, he entered the tavern. It was empty except for the barkeep, a young yet ageless maiden with long flaxen hair. She it must have been who was singing but she had stopped as soon as she heard his footfall on the porch.

    Smaed bowed deeply and, smiling, introduced himself politely, then took a barstool and ordered an ale. He looked at the barmaid with interest. She was tall and had a small, pert face with wide, honest eyes. She smiled back shyly and welcomed the weary wayfarer in his travel-stained gear, and replied with her name that sounded to Smaed like Reeva. Despite her shyness she bore herself with dignity and grace and gave a strong impression of being independent and self-contained. Smaed was strangely moved by her presence, distant yet alluring. He wondered if she was elf. He had heard that elven maidens were very pretty and she certainly was.

    As he sipped his ale he tried to ask Riva some questions. He learned this was indeed Silverleaf village, but that all were asleep or away on journeys. And, yes, she was herself of elvenkind. He asked her if there was an elf living in the village called Talis, but she knew no-one of that name. Smaed was disappointed but not surprised. But then she added that the best person to ask might be Aegnor the bowyer, who lived in the next house upstream in the dell. But further than this information Smaed came not. Her Britannian was limited and conversation petered out.

    He looked around the tavern with curiosity. It was much like any other tavern, with the bar and the ubiquitous dartboard on the wall. But it possessed none of the shabbiness of many taverns that he had frequented. It was well-appointed and spotlessly clean, with scrubbed tables and high-backed, cushion-seated armchairs. It was also well-lit by lanterns giving out a soft light. There was a lantern on each table and three lanterns along the outer bannister of the staircase leading to the floor above. In the northern corner facing the door through which he had come was a bear rug and on this a work-bench.On the bench sat a number of items that he could not identify. Most puzzling of these was a crystal, the like of which he had never before seen. He had not noticed it when he had entered, as his attention was fixed on the barmaid, but now he looked again and saw that it pulsated with light, as if it were alive, and he wondered what this strange object could be and what its purpose was.

    But now it was getting late and was quite dark. Smaed was weary and feeling drowsy from the ale. Taking his leave, he rose and left the tavern, uncertain whether at such a late hour he should go to Aegnor’s house. But no, it would better wait until the morrow. He made secure camp a bit upstream, and soon fell soundly asleep.
  43. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Part 15

    Silverleaf, late spring 381


    Smaed woke at first light, but drowsed for a while in his bedroll through the long dawn until the light had slowly broadened into sunrise. Then he got up and lit a fire, sniffing the air, which was mild and fresh, and reminded him that summer had almost arrived. Looking up at the northern slope of the dell while he broke his fast, he could see that the trees at its crest were already rose-tipped from the rising sun.

    He carefully put out the fire and broke camp, then walked the short distance to Aegnor’s house. He could see that its occupant was up, smoke spiralling from the chimney and soon the smell of bacon being fried was apparent. Smaed sniffed appreciatively, his mouth watering after his much more spartan earlybite. He hid himself discretely from where he could watch the house without being intrusive, waiting patiently until he judged that breakfast was over. But before he could go up to the door and knock, a male figure dressed in brown emerged, bending to pick up some logs from the side of the house.

    Smaed emerged from his hiding place and walked towards the house, bowed politely, saying he sought words with a Silverleaftan, and that he understood that the owner of this house was one such.

    <font color=green>Aye, that is me, Aegnor the Bowyer at your service. How can I be of assistance?</font color=green>

    <font color=blue>My name is Smaed Fretting. I seek one who may be known to your people.</font color=blue>

    Aegnor frowned and looked narrowly at the man, showing obvious signs of suspicion. Smaed hastily added:

    <font color=blue>Nay, nay, nothing threatening. I seek one whom I have reason to believe may be my father. He went by the name of Talis. I was but a child of just a few summers when I saw him.</font color=blue>

    Aegnor’s expression was unreadable and he grunted, non-committedly. Smaed continued:

    <font color=blue>He escorted me and my aunt to Trinsic nearly 10 years ago. I was 8 at the time. I say my aunt, but actually she is my mother…</font color=blue>

    <font color=green>I do not know anyone by the name of Talis. The most nearly fitting name of our residents would be Thalandor, a Ranger. But I never heard him using the name Talis.We usually just call him Thal</font color=green>

    <font color=blue>Ah, tis a ranger I am looking for</font color=blue> said Smaed, with an eager light in his eyes.

    <font color=green>Well he is a bit taller than me, has green sparkling eyes and wide flowing blond hair. Would that be him?</font color=green>

    Smaed felt a spark of hope, Thal was close to Talis. but he realised he needed to provide more information at this point and decided to show Aegnor the diary. Slowly, reluctant to show his mother’s private diary to a complete stranger, he took it out of his pack. Blushing, he told Aegnor:

    <font color=blue>Tis is a diary I found belonging to my aunt - I mean mother. I will show a page to you as a token of my trust.</font color=blue>

    He put the book down on the pile of logs, open at the page where Talis is briefly described. Smaed looked uncomfortable and embarrassed.

    <font color=blue>My mother's private diary… I have no business having it…</font color=blue>

    Aegnor read the open page:

    <font color=green>Mhh travel worn green grab, that would fit most of our Rangers... Mhhh north coast of the Deep Forest, that could mean here, aye…</font color=green>

    Smaed closed the diary with a snap and returned it to his pack. His eyes filled with tears:

    <font color=blue>I love whom I thought were my parents and Millie who suckled me and who cared for me when I was an infant. But I also love my real mother who brought me to Trinsic and to safety and who loves me as one of her own. I do so though she never told me the truth of my lineage, in which she did wrong, for I have a right to know! So I have borrowed her diary and making the long and wearisome journey from Trinsic City have sought my father now for over a year, searching the whole northern coast from Empath Abbey to this place.</font color=blue>

    Aegnor looked closely at Smaed as if to size up the man. Smaed glowed with an almost desparate eagerness,his eyes full of longing. Then as if coming to a decision, Aegnor said:

    <font color=green>Mhh, I am not sure if this Talis and Thal are the same. If ye want to meet Thal, I think he planned to return soon from an extended hunting foray.</font color=green>

    Smaed looked hopeful and nodded. He thanked Aegnor profusely many times, and then took his leave with a deep bow. He returned to the tavern where he spent the rest of the day. Smaed had much to think about and digest…
  44. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Part 16

    Silverleaf, early summer 381

    Waiting for Thalandor

    Thalandor came not the next day – or the next, nor that week. Smaed waited, camping a little way upstream from the tavern, so enabling him to keep watch on both Aegnor’s house and on the tavern. He spent much time in the tavern and so also talking to Riva, who had promised to bring him word as soon as she heard anything of Thalandor’s return.

    He got to know Riva quite well and she became less reserved with him, smiling at him freely and showing a depth of knowledge of the forests that for a barkeep surprised him. He said little about himself but she was perceptive and he felt she had learned more about him than he felt comfortable about. He felt strangely drawn to her, stirring in him feelings that he had not had before and that disturbed him. So he began to freqent the tavern less often, for fear of becoming too emotionally involved with her.

    Summer had arrived, and with it the scent of rosehips and lilacs filled the dell. Everything seemed to be growing with great energy as if to make up the lost time of a long winter. Some of the lilac bushes grew here marvelously tall, towering above Smaed as he walked by them. Birdsong filled the dell and Smaed was already keeping watch for the first swallows, though he knew they were not likely to arrive for a while yet.

    These balmy days of warm sunshine dried out the spring mud and gave him the opportunity to explore the dell and the village. It was very different from Leafsta or from the Shirefolk’s home of Underhill which was was just one house, though he understood there was at least one more somewhere. Silverleaf somewhat reminded him of the Celtic village of Kallahar that he visited when, as a trainee militiaman, he was befriended by a Celt named Beatane, who alas is no more. Like Silverleaf, Kallahar was also a collection of buildings, though protected by a barrelwall.

    Silverleaf was different from all these in that it was not barrelwalled, but the buildings were close together and followed the riven dell to the sea. As far as he could ascertain, Aegnor’s house was the highest, being furthest inland near the head of the dell, not far below the wellspring from which the brook issued. The next building was a stone tower that looked like a guardkeep, after that was the tavern. Downstream were three more buildings, a merchant’s house on the south side of the brook where it ran gurgling over the pebbles to the sea, and a library on the north side of the brook. There was also what looked like a mage’s house. For a village with a small population this was an impressive number of buildings.

    But what struck Smaed as special about the riven dell were two features. The first was that it provided effective shelter from the north winds. The second was more remarkable, in that near its mouth it abruptly changed direction liken to a dog’s leg so that its northern slope turned south just before the sea, sheltering the dell from the sea, as it were a ridge parallel to the beach. Smaed had never seen such a feature before. The whole effect was one of mildness of weather, a kind of microclimate in the dell that gave it a rich and distinctive vegetation.

    After a few days of thorough exploration, Smaed began to range wider round about the dell exploring its outlying areas, especially inland a little way beyond the wellspring of the brook. Then at last the day came when it seemed he would meet Thalandor.
  45. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Part 17

    Midsummer Eve 381

    Smaed meets Thalandor

    Smaed woke to an early dawn on Midsummers Eve. At these high latitudes in midsummer, dawn came early. Indeed, for two or three short weeks it never became fully dark, for although the sun dipped below the horizon for a few hours each night it never dipped far enough for its light to entirely disappear from the northern skies.

    Smaed broke camp and and as had been his wont for the last few days of waiting he went into the tavern to break fast. Riva had heard some news, that in the small hours Thalandor had returned to Silverleaf. It began to look as though the meeting Smaed had waited for was now at hand. He spent most of that day waiting and keeping a look out, but the late afternoon shadows were growing longer when he went for yet another look around. He waited a while then saw a tall elf approaching from the other side of the brook. He was bareheaded and dressed in green and brown, and wearing a travel-stained cloak. He carried a bow and on his back, sticking up over his left shoulder could be seen a quiver of arrows. Smaed went forward to hail him, and their paths met outside Aegnor’s house. He had thought much over how best to address the elf and had decided the direct approach was best:


    Smaed Fretting: Greetings, sir, my name is Smaed, I seek an elven ranger called perhaps Talis.


    At this the elf’s eyes widen with surprise and perhaps something else that Smaed couldn’t interpret. He plunged on:


    He escorted my aunt Agnes Fretting, together with me and my cousin Jern, to Trinsic when I was 8 years old. Sir, the thing is that I think, or believe, that the elf Talis may be my father.


    Thalandor paused, clearly taken aback. First looking uncertain, then he appeared deep in thought. It felt to Smaed like an age before he finally spoke, seeming to choose his words carefully:


    I have heard of Agnes....well....in fact......I think I met her a long time ago, some seasons ago, It was summer I think.

    Smaed Fretting: Where was it? *looks eager*

    Thalandor: A small settlement of which there are so many around here

    Smaed Fretting: Leafsta, perhaps? That is where I was born 17 years ago


    Thalandor appeared to think, while Smaed wrinkled his brow in anxious waiting. The elf continued:


    Well.......*tries to remember specifics* Leafsta, a settlement of woodfolk?

    Smaed Fretting: Err, well,...

    Thalandor: Lumberjacks and hunters ?

    Smaed Fretting: Nay, nay, we were miners and smiths, though some of us were lumberjacks, who built and tended the coke piles.

    Thalandor: Ahh, the metalworkers.

    Smaed Fretting: Yes, yes! Blacksmiths

    Thalandor: I think I got my first sword there

    Smaed Fretting: *gasps with surprise*

    Thalandor: I was passing through the area on a hunt

    Smaed Fretting: So you remember it? Built horseshoe shape for defence

    Thalandor: and on the edge of the settlement I met a fair maiden.

    Smaed Fretting: *looks amazed* Yes? Do you remember her name?

    Thalandor: She was lithe and full of joy, enjoying the forests and life itself.

    Smaed Fretting: *eyes begin to fill with tears* Ah, I so long to know if this was Agnes.

    Thalandor: I talked a lot with her about life, the woods and nearly everything else

    Smaed looked intensely, listening with full attention. At this point Thalandor shifted uneasily from foot to foot, looking uncomfortable and uncertain as to what he should say or how to say it. Smaed prompted:


    Please good sir, I am desperate to know

    Thalandor: Well, erm....it was nearly midsummer...the night was warm and comforting

    Smaed Fretting: *hard to contain his excitement*

    Thalandor: I was hesitant to give her my name on our first meeting

    Smaed Fretting: Yes I understand

    Thalandor: and gave her the name I use when doing business with humans.....way back they knew me then as Talis the Ranger

    Smaed Fretting: Oh, sir...then that must be you whom my aunt named as Talis in her, err, diary *looks embarrassed*

    Thalandor: *looks embarrassed too*

    Smaed Fretting: Er, I have looked in her private diary without her knowing. There is a long story behind this *blushes*

    Thalandor: No please, don’t try to explain. Let me tell you instead of my shame

    Smaed looked as if he would say something but stopped and nodded. He had noticed that Thalandor’s demeanour seemed to change. He appeared to have made some sort of decision. Drawing breath, Thalandor dew himelf up straight, his eyes cleared and he continued in a firmer voice:


    Thalandor: As I said it was midsummer, and midsummer has strange powers

    Smaed Fretting: *eyes widen with wonder*

    Thalandor: I really liked the lass, but I was hesitant

    Smaed Fretting: I understand

    Thalandor: Me being an elf and she a human, things would be bound to be complicated

    Smaed looked sad and sighed. He thought back to his days in the Yew Militia - the same old story of human intolerance. He smiled crookedly, saying:


    I know it well from first hand…

    Thalandor: But i could not resist my feelings for her.....we loved each other

    Smaed Fretting: Oh, Talis, sir, then it is you!

    Thinking back afterwards, Smaed realised that it was this point in the conversation that he became convinced he had found his father.

    Thalandor smiled and again looked uncomfortable as if gathering his courage to explain something that he was not proud of. He hesitated briefly, then motioned to Smaed towards a bench outside the house:


    Please have a seat *points at bench*

    Smaed Fretting: *sits on the bench, looking up at Thalandor*

    Thalandor: As I told ye, I think I did wrong thing at the time

    Smaed Fretting: *touches his facial scar* Yes? But I have done so too, tis not uncommon…

    Thalandor: I tried to convince myself that it was all my fault for not being cautious enough

    Smaed Fretting: That is always so when emotions are strong.

    Thalandor: I stole away in the middle of the night, not wanting to cause her pain.

    Smaed Fretting: *leans forward to listen better* So you bade her not farewell

    Thalandor: *inhales deeply and sighs* No, I stole away like a coward

    Smaed Fretting: You did? I am sure she understood

    Thalandor shook his head, making Smaed’s eyes widen in surprise. Then Thalandor continued:


    I was afraid to meet her again.

    Smaed Fretting: That I understand, too


    Thalandor looked as if he felt relief that he would not be judged too harshly by Smaed, so he appeared to relax somewhat, and continued:


    I did my best to not come close to the village, but one fateful day Leafsta was in deep trouble. Not wanting to lose the one I Loved so much I headed back into the town.

    Smaed Fretting: *holds his breath in anticipation*

    Thalandor: The situation was grim, but I was able to meet her again. She showed me a small bundle.....a child.

    Smaed couldn’t supress a soft cry of “oh!”, as he looked at Talis/Thalandor as if he would hang on the elf’s every word.


    Thalandor: The child was but small, and showed outwardly not any signs of being of the elven race. I fet happy for her

    Smaed closes his eyes and involuntarily clasped his hands together as if in prayer. He began to feel that this story would be one that would heal his heart rather than – as he had feared - further rend it.


    Thalandor: She had managed somehow to give the child to another woman.

    Smaed Fretting: Ah! As I thought, good sir

    Smaed, still sitting with closed eyes, realised now that Thalandor was indeed his father. For how could he otherwise have known about the switch of Smaed for the dead infant between the two cousins, Agnes and Millie? He sensed that Thalandor also understood that Smaed knew of this and that their shared knowledge provided a foundation for the sealing of what Smaed hoped would become their father-son relationship. Smaed had much food for thought but Thalandor continued:


    Without showing signs of half elven heritage it was possible for her to fool her family, which she told me had been very upset, demanding to know who was the father of the child.

    Only now did Smaed open his eyes, which shone with love and understanding. Thalandor continued:


    But alas, my return was short lived. Leafsta was in dire peril, and so I tried to make up for past faults trying to make sure she and the child could start anew in a new town. Too many people in the city of Yew would have recognized her, so it was decided to travel to a city far in the south.

    Smaed Fretting: Yes!

    Thalandor: The city was Trinsic, Stronghold of Honour, and I hoped they would be able to
    start there anew

    Smaed Fretting: Yes, yes, and we did!

    Thalandor: I escorted them south, along the trail to Skara Brae and onward to Trinsic.

    Smaed felt overwhelmed with emotion, and seemed to gather himself to speak, saying at last:


    Oh, tis you good sir...

    Thalandor: We travelled several days, with each day I became to know that in the end, I had to leave her again.

    Smaed looked sad and a little puzzled. Thalandor noriced and continued, trying to explain:


    I am a creature of the forest, and the marble-built city would never be anything like a home to me. People would wonder what one of Yew Rangers would do in their little world.

    Smaed Fretting: *nods* I understand. I too want to be a ranger.

    Thalandor: So when we neared the gates, she noticed my anxiety.

    Smaed looked at Talis with compassion and understanding. He had enough insight to see that the ranger, who, being older and wiser and more experienced, could foresee the difficulty of being a ranger in a big city far from his beloved forests of Yew. And no doubt the hostile view of elves that seemed to prevail in the backwoods of Yew also coloured his, Thalandor’s, view. For how different would it be in that southern city of humans? Thalandor was not to know, even though Smaed did, that elves were honoured in noble Trinsic. Thalandor paused, seeming to remember with a far-off look in his eyes, then continued:


    Troubled, I told her I would never be able to live in a city with all the paved streets and knights in their shining armor.

    Smaed Fretting: Yes, its difficult for us, too, simple villagers that we are.

    Thalandor: She only nodded and kissed me, telling me she understood perfectly. *hangs head*

    Smaed Fretting: *smiles softly*

    Thalandor: She stood near the gates, her tears of our sudden reunioun gone awry.

    Smaed Fretting: Oh...*a tear runs down his cheek*

    Thalandor: She was a marvelous woman, She gave me more respect than I deserved at that time

    Smaed Fretting: O she loved you greatly and still does, of that I am sure.

    Thalandor: *holds breath*

    Smaed Fretting: Then I have found he whom I have searched so long for!

    Thalandor: Ye mean......she......she is still living in Trinsic ?

    Smaed Fretting: *looks at him with love* Oh yes! We learned of the end of Leafsta when my cousin Jern made the great journey north to learn why we had no news. And when Jern returned to say that Leafsta was no more we knew not where to go.

    Thalandor: Oh what have I done!

    Smaed Fretting: No, no, it is not you, but the situation...

    Thalandor: If she kept this secret from you she must be very upset about me for leaving her again.

    Smaed Fretting: *reaches out his hand, trembling, towards the elf*

    Thalandor: *shakes terribly*

    Smaed’s heart went out to the elf. Some day he would have to explain the whole story of Leafsta and our lack of knowledge of who might have survived its destruction or where they might be sought and found. But now was not the time. Now, more than anything, Smaed wanted mutual acknowledgement between man and elf of their kinship. So he began, shy and faltering:


    No, I don't know why she said nothing. May I,... may I...

    Thalandor: I think she is trying to forget me...*sighs*

    Smaed Fretting: She wouldn’t know where to seek you!

    Thalandor: *sits down next to Smaed and nods*

    Smaed Fretting: *reaches out to touch his shoulder with a trembling hand* May I,...may I...call you...

    Thalandor: The settelments broke apart with the swamp disaster. *looks up*

    Smaed Fretting: Oh, I see. What happened to Leafsta, do you know?

    Thalandor: *nods* I know all to well

    Smaed Fretting: *kneels down besides the elf* One day maybe you can tell me, I – we - long to know…

    Thalandor: *nods*

    Smaed Fretting: But now for me is more important that we acknowledge our relationship for
    what it is...

    Thalandor: Well... I guess you better call me Thalandor, my real name.


    This was not of course what Smaed had in mind! He longed instead to be able to call the elf father and hear him in turn named son. But before he could continue they saw a small figure appear.


    Thalandor: I didst do nothing I do deserve...

    Rorimac: Hail Thalandor!

    Thalandor: *quickly wipes away tears*

    Rorimac: *waves hello*

    Smaed Fretting: *looks frustrated at being interrupted*

    Thalandor: Oh Hello Rorimac. May I intoduce you to my.....er.....*tries to find words* my.....son !

    Rorimac: glad to meet you ... I’m chasing a wolf pack ... did you see it ? Your ... WHAT ???

    Smaed Fretting: Hello *bows*

    Rorimac: *looks shocked* You are joking aren’t you ?

    Thalandor: Er... well.....you know I never talk much....but...er.....it is the simple truth

    Rorimac: ....

    Smaed Fretting: *looks puzzled*

    Rorimac: ehm, well, hello son of Thal.

    Smaed Fretting: *gasps* Ah, tis true!

    Thalandor: *shivers at the mention of it*

    Smaed Fretting: Father!

    Rorimac: *talks to himself*

    Smaed Fretting: *moves to embrace his father*

    Rorimac: I don’t believe this

    Smaed Fretting: *hesitates*

    Thalandor: Please.....no.....I did nothing to deserve being called father.

    Rorimac: elves !

    Smaed Fretting: *looks crestfallen* Oh! But, but...

    Thalandor: I left you and your mother...

    Smaed Fretting: That isn’t whats important!

    Rorimac at this point slipped quietly away seeing that the discussion was becoming very private. Smaed barely notices and continues:


    For me it is everything to have found he who sired me *kneels at Thalandor’s feet*

    Thalandor: But the circumstances...No please stand up

    Smaed Fretting: Nay, nay, never mind that. Father, please, I ask for your recognition and blessing. *stays kneeling*

    Thalandor: You are...*stammers a bit*...my son

    Smaed Fretting: *reaches up with hands in supplication* Oh, yes, thank you...father!

    Thalandor: *takes hands in his own*

    Smaed smiled in bliss, overcome with emotion, then Thalandor continued:


    You...you should not be that happy to see me.....

    Smaed Fretting: Oh, why not? *looks worried*

    Thalandor: I can imagine many things that are not as they should be. I did nothing to help you or your mother...

    Smaed Fretting: O but you did! You took us to safety to Trinsic! But we can talk of these another time We have much to catch up on.

    Thalandor: It is not that much....a father should be supporting his family

    Smaed Fretting: There was no need, and the circumstances were such that it couldnt be.

    Thalandor: The furs i gave your mother were hardly worth enough to support you in the beginning.

    Smaed Fretting: Furs? I am talking about ties of kin, not payments. Ties of blood, and love shared!

    Thalandor: Yes...and no....

    Smaed Fretting: *looks puzzled*

    Thalandor: I m talking about with how less you started your new existence in Trinsic...
    I could not provide you ith anything at all...just some furs...

    Smaed Fretting: What I lacked was not comfort and gold, it was knowing my father. And that was Aunt - mother's - doing. That was not your fault.

    Thalandor: But....but how can you be so forgiving?

    Smaed Fretting: You see, the woman she gave me to, my aunt Millie Fretting who I thought was my mother, came to love me as her own son

    Thalandor: *listens,looking relieved*

    Smaed Fretting: And when we arrived in Trinsic all was still well in Leafsta. Agnes was not named Angst Doomsong for nought, many Leafstans scoffed at her prophecies of doom and expected her to return us there and give me back to Millie and her husband Smaed. So I understand why you did nothing and she stayed silent. But now it is our relationship that is most important. And we can start anew. I have grown up and can make my own decisions

    Thalandor: But look around you, I live here in this small settlement... it is nothing compared to a city. It is even dangerous out here

    Smaed Fretting: Ah, and I would love to live here. Tis beautiful, and these forests are my home and my heart.

    Thalandor: *smiles* It is at lest a beginning

    Smaed Fretting: Now I am overwhelmed. My search - my long search - is over. I have found my father whom I longed to meet.

    Thalandor: *gulps* I hope you are not too disappointed with me now that you met me...

    Smaed understood at some sub-conscious level that this fine upright elf who had such a conscience about leaving his lover and son in Trinsic and not supporting them financially had faced a hard decision, and had suffered for it. He thought for a moment then replied:


    Oh no!! You are all I hoped for and more. *pauses and ponders, then continues* I suggest we are both emotional now and need time to come to terms with what we have learned.

    Thalandor: *nods*

    Smaed Fretting: Then we need to talk and know more of each other. So, please, my sire, I suggest we retire and meet again to exchange news of ourselves. I, too, have much to tell and to explain...*looks uncomfortable*

    Thalandor: if you like you can stay at the inn for now. *nods*

    Smaed Fretting: I would like that. Where is it? I have but seen a tavern.

    Thalandor: Let me show you...

    Thalandor led the way downstream past Silverleaf’s Guard Tower, stopping in front of the Silverleaf Tavern. Smaed had hardly noticed until now that it was late and the sun was setting. When they stopped outside the familiar tavern he looked surprised.


    I know this place. This is an inn as well as a tavern?

    Thalandor: Aye, there is a guest room upstairs

    Smaed Fretting: *smiles at Riva* ah how nice

    Thalandor: The lodge where we just met is not finished yet.

    Smaed Fretting: *nods*

    Thalandor: the old bowyer is still working on it

    Smaed Fretting: I have much to learn of this wonderful place. It has a magic air to it

    Thalandor: Aye, it does

    Smaed Fretting: So I leave you for now, father

    Thalandor: Riva, the young man here will sleep here and is our guest.

    Smaed Fretting: *embraces him*

    Thalandor: *returns embrace* Until later.......my son

    Smaed Fretting: Good night father

    Thalandor: Good night, son.

    Smaed felt blissfully happy, as if a great burden had been lifted from him and a cloud dispersed above his head. He pauses on the bottom step to watch his father depart, then climbed the stairs to the room. There he made himself comfortable for the first time in a warm bed and quickly fell into a deep sleep.
  46. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Part 18

    Midsummer's Day 381, Leafsta Reckoning

    Silverleaf Tavern

    Smaed woke next morning to a leaden sky and the patter of rain on the roof. He had much to think about, and didn’t feel like making small talk with Riva, in fact he didn’t feel sociable at all. So he stayed in his room, nibbling on his iron rations - a crust of dried bread, some raisens and a wrinkled apple.

    He had much to think about after yesterday’s revelation. He had found his father, and was favourably impressed. Thalandor was clearly a ranger archer of some repute and was honest and possessing a conscience. And he had acknowledged Smaed as his son. Smaed felt still the warm glow of acceptance and inner peace. His quest was over. So what next? One question loomed in his mind above all others. Smaed had been in the Yew Militia. He must of course tell his father…

    Smaed closed his eyes and thought back to those days, a year ago that now seemed like a lifetime. He had served in the Yew Militia for two years as a callow youth and had advanced to the still lowly rank of footman at the age of 16. He felt he was a poor militiaman, well below average, slow in his reactions, often confused, feeling somewhat of an outsider. Worse, he had followed the religion of the Ankh with piety and devotion, going to church regularly, making generous donations of gold to its offerings chest. And the militia church preached the evilness of the elven race, which he had never believed. But he had been devout and could no longer turn a blind eye to this dark side of the church. That was, of course, the reason of principle – coming on top of his feeling of inadequacy as a soldier - that made him resign his commission last year when he knew that he himself was half-elven (see Smaed’s Story Parts 5 to 7).

    Smaed felt a cold fear inside him. What would his father think? Would their newly-won relationship be wrecked if Smaed told Thalandor about this? But Smaed knew deep inside that this he could not keep secret. Father and son had to start their relationship with honesty and openness, not with secrets that could at any time be revealed by an acquaintance that would be felt like a betrayal, worse than any immediate acknowledgement. He would face the music and tell his father.

    At the same time, the Militia had changed him: had shown him comradeship, especially the Yreap siblings. More important, perhaps, it had introduced him to the religion of the Ankh. He still wore inside his shirt his wooden ankh on a thong round his neck. Worship of The One taught much that was fair and good. Did all the Ankh churches preach hatred of the elf race? He thought back to the chapel in Empath Abbey that he often would go to pray in. He could remember nothing about anti-elf beliefs among the monks. He must find out, and regretted missing the opportunity to do so while kicking his heels there all last winter.

    Smaed sighed.
  47. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Part 19

    Late Summer 381, LR

    Waiting for Thalandor

    It was a while before Smaed could meet his father again, for he had left a message with Riva to let his son know that he had gone on one of his frequent scouting forays. The rangers of Silverleaf were often away, Riva had explained.

    It was a life of much journeying and danger, keeping track of those that might threaten their peace and security, exchanging news and rumour with other elven settlements and less frequently with elvish rangers living in mixed-race settlements like Underhill in the more far-flung corners of the Deep Forest, even to the very skirts of the Serpentspine Mountains far to the south. News of orc-raids, the movement of undead armies, monster-sightings or their spore, the campaigns and patrols of the Yew Militia, the activities of bandits, and much more were gathered and shared in the far-flung network of the elven diaspora.

    Much of this Smaed recognised from what little he knew of the Militia’s own ranger division; the Waywatchers that Smaed once had aspired to join. But his limited military training also told him there were significant differences. Silverleaf’s ranger resources were far more limited and stretched and seemed to rely more heavily on a network of elvish ranger co-operation and intelligence-gathering and sharing. Smaed began to understand how difficult it was for Thalandor to find the time from his duties to make long journeys of a private nature.
  48. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Part 20

    Late Summer 381 LR

    Silverleaf Tavern: re-union and confession

    The short northern summer was waning and the nights turning cool, with a hint of autumn in the air, when news of Thalandor’s return reached the Silverleaf Tavern. He would first have to make his personal report to Sir Phoenix, the village leader and perhaps also consult with other leaders before he could spare the time to see his son.

    But at last the day came when Thalandor came to the tavern and greeted Smaed warmly, calling for two bottles of wine and taking them to a table where they sat down opposite each other in comfortable chairs with armrests. Thalandor offered no news of his wanderings and Smaed did not wish to pry, so he began to tell Thalandor about the happenings after Thalandor had left Agnes and the two boys in Trinsic.

    He told of their years of waiting with fading hope of news from Leafsta as they struggled to adapt to life in a simple croft in the city’s foretown, of the death of old Digs Delver that left Jern, his apprentice miner, but half-trained and Agnes as owner of the croft. And finally Smaed told of Jern’s long journey as a 16 year-old back to the Norse Forest, his finding of the ruins of Leafsta, his learning of the existence of the Yew Militia in their Crossroads stronghold of Stonekeep, and the happenstance of his being there just as a big open day event was being held there.

    Smaed then told of how Jern returned to the croft and recounted his adventures and how Smaed was siezed by an anger and sorrow of the loss of Leafsta and determined to travel to Stonekeep and, as a raw 15-year old to take service with the militia to help defend the small scattered communities of the Deep Forest.

    Thalandor listened closely and though he paled when Smaed revealed he had been in the Yew Militia, he hid well his dismay and merely sighed.

    Smaed then told of his life in the militia as a raw recruit barely knowing one end of a sword from the other, or how to hold – let alone use - a bow – in contrast to most recruits who came to the militia with average fighting skills in one weapon, often the bow. He told of his clumsy awkwardness as on patrols to the orc fort or to to dungeons he struggled to be more than just a piece of baggage that needed more help than he could himself contribute and his feeling of inadequacy and slowly eroding self-confidence.

    Thalandor seemed to expect to hear that the Militia had conducted raids against other elven settlements and looked relieved when Smaed could say that no such abominations happened during his time. On the contrary, many militia mixed openly with settlements in which elves lived despite this being discouraged by some of the Militia officers. He told of one event, a performance competition at Underhill, that he had also been to, and that was well-attended by militiamen, some of whom took part with obvious enthusiasm. But also of another time that he was loath to remember when he was ordered to accompany a stern and harsh priest-knight of the Stonekeep Church to flush out a shirefolk man who was wanted for questioning and whom he took back as a prisoner to Stonekeep for inquisition.

    Smaed also told of the sunday services he attended in Stonekeep Church in which a soldier-priest invariably haranged the congregation on the dangers of trusting elves who were described as inherently evil. Smaed had twisted uncomfortably in his pew listening to this hatred of elves that spewed forth and thought that it rhymed ill with the church’s teaching of love and compassion. Despite this, Smaed was drawn to the beautiful church and often went there alone to pray and seek comfort in its silence and peace.

    Finally, Smaed told of his love for the Deep Forest and how his thoughts turned often to how the swamp round the ghost town of Yew might be banished and the forest healed and returned one day to its former glory,enabling Yew Town to enjoy a rennaisance. He told how he studied the swamp and tried with some of the guards various ways of dealing with it, all to no avail. He told also of how one day he sought out the Guardians of the Forest to beg for their aid, but they mistrusted the militia, cursing them for chopping down trees to build their toll-collection barricades, and Smaed being in footman uniform, though with his sword sheathed and his shield on his back, was turned away.

    Thalandor listened to all this sorrowfully, with little comment, and sighed often. And recounting all this lifted the cloud of anxiety Smaed had felt for this meeting and healed his heart in a way that he could not describe.
  49. Angst

    Angst Guest

    Part 21

    61st January 351 SR*

    Outside Silverleaf Tavern

    Smaed ponders his place in the world

    The summer and a glorious copper autumn had passed. Yuletide came and went and the first month of the new year had almost ended. Even so far north where the winter days were short the magic of the riven dell kept the climate mild. The valley was rimed with hoar frost so that it sparkled in the clear mid-winter sun: every bough and branch, every blade of grass, seemed to be etched in silver.

    Thalandor had once more left during the summer on a long journey, and Smaed had also been away for a number of scouting trips to fill the time. The Silverleaftans had been friendly enough and had even tried to organise a hunt for him to join, but with still no sign of his father, it had come to nought.

    Smaed himself was ambivelent. He understood the Silverleaftans. He knew that the small settler villages of the Yew Forest were all very inward-looking. Leafsta was, as were the other villages he had come across during his time as a militiaman. All were busy with their own lives and with their own village affairs, and had little time for strangers.

    Smaed was also aware that the undying elves had a view of life coloured by their long view and that the doings of humans were but a temporary aberation that should be viewed with detachment.

    But what of Smaed himself? He wondered if he had inherited his father’s eternal elven life or his mother’s human lifespan: or, perhaps something in between? What was it to be halfelven? Would he now not belong anywhere: neither among elves nor humans?

    *Note change of calendar. from LR (Leafsta Reckoning) to SR Stratics Reckoning
  50. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Yay! A new post! /php-bin/shared/images/icons/smile.gif