Into the Woods

Posted: May 30, 2017 in 1. Norasburg, Rears Its Ugly Head, Tall Tales
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Welsley stood on the balcony high atop the tower.  She could feel the midday sun warm her skin as she stood looking over the vast forest that stood on the opposite side of the river.  From this distance it looked like a wide sea of green.  No detail could be made out.

She found no joy in this view, unlike at normal times.  The normal calmness that came when she viewed the world from this distance was gone.  She had no desire to see the big picture at this moment, she wanted to be able to focus on the life within the forest.  One life in particular.

She glanced down at the paper in her hand.  It was the first page of a report sent to her from Shan that detailed the events at the logging camps and her investigator’s recommendations.  Shan had set up a guard at the river crossing, Welsley had already sent two more squads of soldiers to reinforce the position.  Welsley would be meeting with her commanders before the day was out to discuss the construction of a permanent outpost to guard the crossing.  Shan’s report had been complete and exacting, as always; there was a real threat from out of the forest.

From the thirteenth tower.

Welsley read the report’s opening one more time: “Immediate threat eliminated.  Going to Shatterook tower to investigate further threat.”

She trusted Shan’s instincts where these investigations were concerned but in this instance she would have preferred to have been consulted.  The report was filled with talk of the undead, necromancers and cursed towers.  Fantasy and myth.  Welsley would have liked to have met these Shatterook people before sending any of her folk through the forest beyond her land.

It was too late now, Shan would already be well on her way and too deep into the woods by the time even a mounted messenger could reach her.  There were few who knew the forest well enough to catch up with them and none brave enough to venture that deep into the unknown.

Except Shan.  Her safety would have been a secondary concern dismissed in favor of the needs of the Goddess.  She had shown the presence of mind to take Abeth and a couple of the soldiers with her.

“Morah,” Welsley called into her chamber.  The attendant materialized almost instantaneously out of the shadows of the room.

“Your Eminence?” Morah questioned.

“Cancel the rest of my day,” Welsley instructed.  “I need a chance to consider this news.”

“As you wish, Your Eminence,” Morah bowed before she glided from the room.

During her childhood Welsley had been exposed to many a tall tale told by her parents’ staff and visiting bards.  Tales of dragons and giants, dwarves and elves, magic and high fantasy filled the household.  Tales of heroics accompanied her education, as she grew the stories grew more taboo and included unheard of stories of handsome warriors saving fair maidens.  Evil was always vanquished and everyone lived happily ever after.  These tales kept coin in a bard’s pocket and laughter in the kitchens.

Life rarely worked out so neatly for the average person.  People fell victim to the little evils of life on a daily basis.  The evils that humanity inflicted upon itself removed the potential for a “happily ever after.”  The monsters from the stories would be worse.
And now she was told that the monsters were real.  At least some of them.

The stories she could remember that featured necromancy always involved endless hordes of restless, angry dead.  This relatively small incursion could be a precursor to a larger invasion.  If the stories had any truth to them Norasburg would be lucky to survive.

Shatterook was another potential concern.  It was not a place name she could recall ever having heard before.  Not that surprising, Welsley knew, mention of the thirteenth tower were rare, hushed and quick, its fate lost to time.  The forest marked the border of the land controlled by the towers, not much was known about what lay beyond.

From Shan’s report it seemed like the people that lived in that tower’s shadow knew about as much as she did.  Lost in time.

Shan was walking into the unknown and there was little Welsley could do to help.

“My Light,” Morah’s voice interrupted her thoughts.

“Yes, Morah?” Welsley asked.  She had been lost in thought for longer than she realized.  The sky had gotten darker and a cool breeze had picked up.  He skin was covered in goosebumps.  She could see the light from numerous fires and torches in the village below.  The distant forest was a darker shade of green, almost a black.

“Dinner awaits in your private dining room,” Morah advised.

“Thank-you,” Welsley allowed herself to enjoy the evening breeze for a moment.  “Morah,” an idea came to her, “do you recall the name of the tower beyond the woods?”

“I have only ever heard it referred to as the thirteenth tower,” Morah paused a moment, “but perhaps it was recorded in the histories kept in the tower library.”

The faithful were almost as devoted to recording the minutiae of daily life as they were to the Goddess.  Each tower maintained a library of scrolls and tomes that dated back to the time when the Goddess walked among them, or so the claim went.  The lives of countless Guiding Lights were kept for the use of future generations.  All of the wisdom of the ages stored just a few floors below her.

The rulings, the musings, the wisdom of Light Koarl were already being added to the collection.  Every report ever written for any Light was stored within the tower libraries.  The documents kept in each library was unique to each tower.  Norasburg was the closest to the lost tower, if any record of its name was to be found it would be found here.

“That’s an excellent idea,” the Light agreed.  “Have my meal brought to the library.  We have a lot of reading to do.”

“Might I suggest we start in the underground archives?” Morah offered.  “The oldest logs will be more likely to have the information you want.  The library holds the most recent documents, from the current Light and her predecessor.”

“Fair enough,” Welsley acknowledged.  It was unlikely her predecessor, Light Amoren, knew the last tower’s original name.  Light Amoren was devoted to governing, she seemed unlikely to have been concerned with legends of a ruined township.

“Would you like me to get some more eyes to help with the search?”

“Yes,” Welsley replied.  “Four of the faithful.”

“I know just the right ones for the task,” Morah bowed out of the chamber.

Welsley hadn’t spent a lot of time in the archival library while she was in Marton, but the amount of documents stuck in her memory.  This could be a very time consuming project.


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