Craig

Posted: June 13, 2017 in 1. Norasburg, Rears Its Ugly Head, Tall Tales
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“I suppose my involvement in this started four weeks ago,” Craig began as the group relaxed around the fire that night. He was quiet for a bit and then added, “maybe five. Not more than five weeks for certain.”

He had been on his farm, a small homestead just large enough for a home, a small barn, a garden, and a tribe of goats. He had gotten a good deal on it due to its proximity to the cursed tower, a fact that had the added benefit of keeping people away. His closest neighbours were a day’s travel away, the population centre of Shatterook was a couple of days distance by horse. The edge of the wasteland that surrounded the tower was two days of travel, too close for the comfort of most people.

There was a garrison located on the border of the tower’s dead lands. The men stationed there spent their days monitoring activity within the zone and keeping the border safe from any dangers that might arise. He had served some time guarding the border in his youth, it was during this time he had become enamoured with the land. It would be almost two decades before he would be able to purchase this land.

He explored a lot of different opportunities as he aged, most of which revolved around his skill with a sword. He saved as much of his wages as he could from his stints as bodyguard, soldier-for-hire, or guide but it became more and more evident as time went on that selling his skills to the rich would never earn him the gold he would need to achieve his dream. He would need to make a change, to take a risk.

Craig had struck out on his own to chase his fortune. He spent years running down rumours of forgotten ruins, deciphering tattered maps, and following myths that took him deep into the forest and far into the desert. He never did find the wealth of coin he had dreamt of, but on one of his early journeys he found his wife, Agatha, the jewel of his life. In between his expeditions they would bring a son, Alex, and a daughter, Tara, into the world.

His fortune grew slowly over the years, even though vast riches eluded him the freedom his choice made for his life made the struggles easier. The use of his skills to increase the wealth of the rich had crushed his spirit, using his skills for the betterment of himself and his family brought joy to his life – even if financial wealth was beyond his reach.

For fourteen years he explored the wilds, journeying wherever the hint of gold would take him. After every expedition he would return to Shatterook and his family. He would stay for a short time, allowing his wounds to heal before he was off on his next adventure. The hunt for treasure brought him into contact with other fortune seekers including Samuel, Thomas, and Esther.

When he had scraped together enough gold to purchase some land and some goats, Craig retired from the adventuring life. He had agreed to do so early in his marriage to Agatha and was more than happy to follow through with the promise once the land was theirs. That was six months ago.

It had been mid-morning, on that day four weeks ago, when the small group of people rode up to the farmstead. He had just finished tending to his tribe of goats and had been leaning against the wooden fence watching them graze and play in the cool of the morning. A sword rested against the same fence just within reach. He was happy to be retired but could not quite break the habit of having a weapon nearby.

He allowed himself a few moments every day to just enjoy the antics of his little herd. The adults were calm and brave, he had watched them hold off a pair of wolves just after they had arrived at the farm. He had been impressed by the billy goats’ willingness to put themselves in harm’s way to give the nanny goats time to herd the kids to safety. The goats managed to drive the wolves away much to Craig’s delight.

The kids were an enjoyable distraction. Clumsy and full of energy they spent their time chasing after each other, butting heads, and bounding as far as their little legs would allow them. The play would always be followed by long, deep naps.

The antics of the goats helped organize his thoughts. He used this morning break to organize his day, plan his tasks, and prepare himself for his duties. The early morning visitors might make this exercise unnecessary.

He strapped his sword to his left hip and rested his right hand on its hilt. He could see eight riders approach from the direction of Shatterook. Two of them looked to be soldiers, two had an air of wealth about them, one was garbed in a dark robe, the final three he recognized as his friends; Esther, Thomas, and Samuel.

“Craig, my friend,” Thomas’ voice boomed as the riders approached Craig.

“What do you want?” Craig demanded. “Don’t dismount,” he growled as one of the better dressed men had begun to do just that. The man paused mid-dismount which brought a smile to Craig’s face. He recognized the two well-dressed men as members of the town council.

“We need your help,” the man pulled himself back into his saddle.

“No,” Craig responded. He could see his wife and kids watching from the porch of their home.

“I would never allow them to disturb your retirement,” Esther spoke from her saddle, “but it’s important. At least hear us out, Craig.”

“Fine. Stay mounted.”

“I have seen necromancers in the darkness. The dead rising from their graves,” the man in the dark robes said. “The undead marched on the town. Their hunger was unstoppable. Many die, many join their ranks. They sweep over the land.”

The robed individual was the town’s seer. He was responsible for divining the future weather for the local farmers. As far as Craig could remember he had never predicted any cataclysmic event. He was of the druidic order, like Esther, but he preferred the comfort of the town to the wilderness.

“Do you believe him?” Craig asked Esther.

“I do,” was the reply. “There is truth to his words.”

“Doesn’t look like enough people to stop an apocalypse,” Craig commented.

“It is our hope to catch the necromancers before they can perform the ritual,” Esther said. “But to have a chance to do that, we need you. Nobody knows the lands around the tower as well as you.”

Craig glanced at the distant tower behind him. Any danger that came out of that land would overrun his home before it got near the town. If it got past the border guard there would be only him to stop it. Preventing the ritual would be better in the long run than defending against an onslaught of the dead.

“Okay,” he mumbled, “I’ll saddle up.”

He couldn’t look at his family as he moved toward his barn. He didn’t even manage six months with them. Reasons why were irrelevant, it was just one more way he had failed them. All he could hope for was a quick resolution.

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