A Journey Begins

Posted: April 25, 2017 in 1. Norasburg, Rears Its Ugly Head, Tall Tales
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It would take until just after noon for the expedition to get under way.  Even for a group as small as this one there was a lot of preparation to be done.  It was never so easy as just packing a bag and going.  There were two wagons loaded up with supplies; food, maintenance equipment, extra gear.

The wagons were pulled by four large horses.  They were well suited to hauling cargo but were worthless as steeds.  The horses required care so in addition to the soldiers there were two stable hands added to the party.  They doubled as drivers for the wagons which allowed them to keep their numbers relatively lean.

Twenty-four soldiers were assigned to the project.  No mounted troops, the garrison used what cavalry they had to maintain a presence among the widespread rural population.  The few that weren’t out with the patrols were needed to defend Norasburg proper from any unforeseen events.  The first logging camp was not that distant and they would be able to reach it by mid-afternoon the next day at a brisk march.  The soldiers were geared out for maneuverability over brute strength and were armoured in leather reinforced with metal studs.  They were evenly divided between bows and spears but all were armed with short, thick bladed swords.

They were handpicked by their captain, a veteran named Abeth.  He had been a devoted soldier of the faithful since he had reached adulthood.  A native of Norasburg, he had signed up as soon as he was able and served two decades defending his nation.  He had transferred between towers at the needs, and whims, of the Goddess’ Guiding Lights.  He had been fortunate enough to have been transferred back to his home a few years back and had served there ever since.

The lumberjack was to accompany them to his camp.  There were a number of different camps at the edge of the forest that they would visit on their excursions but they wanted to visit the scene of the attack first.  They would visit a selection of the other camps afterwards.

Shan would fill out the expedition as its leader.  It was a position she was used to filling.  It was the Guiding Light’s duty to facilitate the day to day concerns of her citizens, applying the Goddess’ judgment to the concerns of the population.  This kept the Light in close proximity to the tower and limited her ability to travel to view situations first hand, except in rare cases.  She would rely on the observations of the faithful assigned to her, in particular her attendants the Illuminated.

The Illuminated were normally handpicked by the Light from the body of the faithful.  When a Light passed her replacement would keep the current attendants in place as a sign of respect to her predecessor.  The Light would have plenty of opportunity in the future to move her own people into positions of trust.  It made for a smoother transition to keep those familiar with the tower’s needs in place.

It had been Shan’s duty with the old Light to investigate any concern that couldn’t be satisfactorily solved just through eyewitness reports.  Sometimes a first-hand view was required to get to the truth of a situation.  It was a role she filled under Light Koarl as well.

Shan had used the time provided by Abeth’s mustering of his troops to ditch her robes for an outfit more useful for travel.  The robes did a good job creating an air of uniformity and authority but were a poor choice for travel.  They stood out too much and could easily be seen from a distance, they also tended to gather dirt far too quickly.  She chose instead a soft leather tunic and breeches of a muted brown color.  It allowed for freedom of movement while providing a basic level of protection.  The outfit was completed with a dagger strapped at her ankle and a war-hammer hung from her hip.

The weather had held nicely throughout the day and it looked like the sun was going to shine on their departure.  A good omen, nothing ruined a journey faster than a march in a downpour.  Shan would take warm sun beams over cold drops of rain any day.

“We are ready to go whenever you wish, Your Illuminance,” Abeth stood beside her, his hands folded behind his back.

“Excellent,” Shan noticed the approach of the Guiding Light and her entourage of attendants and faithful.  “We’ll be leaving momentarily.”

Abeth nodded and moved to his position at the front of the ranks of soldiers.

“I am glad I caught you before you left,” the Light separated herself from her crowd and moved to grab Shan’s hands in her own.  “The morning has been so tedious.  So very many people who can’t make simple decisions on their own.”

“I’m sorry, Your Eminence,” Shan stammered in confusion.  Light Koarl was different than the previous Light had been.  The previous Light had lived to serve the Goddess unquestioningly while the new one seemed almost bored by her duties at times.

Shan had grown up among the faithful.  It made her an oddity herself, the faithful normally accepted new members when they were in their mid to late teens but Shan had been raised almost since birth in the Goddess’ light.  Shan had been born to unknown parents and found abandoned days after she entered the world.  The infant Shan had been brought to the old Light who took her in.  The Light and her Illuminated, her attendants, raised Shan as their own.  Shan was provided food, clothing, shelter, and education by the primary members of the tower’s faithful.  She was educated in martial activities by the Illuminated and spiritual activities by the Guiding Light herself.  By the time she reached adulthood Shan could manage the tower’s needs as well as the Light could.

It was a natural progression for Shan to be brought into the ranks of the Illuminated.  She quickly became the Light’s most trusted and devoted attendant.  When the Light passed her duties continued under the chosen replacement:  Guiding Light Welsley Koarl.

The old Light was devoted to the Goddess and her teachings, as was Shan.  Light Koarl treated the Goddess’ teachings like they were guidelines rather than gospel.  Yet, despite their different interpretations of the Goddess’ intent, their short time together had built a bond of trust and mutual respect between them.

“No apologies needed, dear Shan,” Welsley confided.  “It’s a burden that comes with the job.”

They stood in silence, Shan waited while Welsley inspected the expedition forces.  Abeth was a capable soldier and leader, Shan was satisfied with his choices.

“Good.  Good,” Welsley nodded.  “Move fast.  Find out what happened, Shan.  See how widespread the danger is, deal with it and report back to me.  Make sure whoever is responsible learns the consequences of harming our people is swift and unforgiving.”

“I will, Your Eminence,” Shan replied.  She walked to the first wagon and climbed up beside the driver.  Shan nodded to Abeth that the march could begin.

“Captain Abeth,” Welsley directed to the soldier, “bring her back to us safe and sound.”

“Yes, Your Eminence.”

Shan felt the wagon jerk forward as the expedition began its journey to the forests to the east.

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