|| Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Earthdawn-ish | Chapter 1 ||
"So how are we going to explain this to people?" Robin wondered.
"Very carefully," Terzin suggested.
"What money?" Jared chimed in.
"The only problem is we don't want the nethermancer cultists, if they do have agents in town, to know that we know, that they know..." Terzin rapidly got lost in his own sentence.
"So we have to figure out how much we're going to tell people," his cousin replied. "That we found the note, and the journal? If there are spies in our town, then..."
"Wait a second. Nobody showed up for the flare."
"Not yet," Harrick said.
"If we don't show them the journal, they have no reason to know that we think he's anything other than" Robin started.
"And the prayer book," the orc reminded her.
"And the Republic note. We don't care about the fact that we was from the Republic, we care that he was going to this town, to try to get these guys, right?" she said.
"Let's keep the journal and the credit note a secret, and just return the body," Terzin stated.
"And the prayer book, and they can make their own conclusions?" That seemed good to her.
"All things considered, the Raelite note and the prayer book aren't too damning," Harrick added. The note was useless as money, but if they turned it in it would make their little group look pretty good (for once).
Terzin raised the concern that even if they didn't hand over the journal, if they all disappeared into the woods one day soon, the agents would be able to guess where they had really gone, especially since everyone knew they had a yen for adventure. One sharp-eyed cultist would be all it took. Maybe they should bury the body, go ahead with their expedition, and show everyone the stuff when they got back?
"One sharp-eyed cultist, we're already on the short list," Harrick noted dryly. "If we disappear they're going to send messages out to keep an eye out for us anyway. The fact that we found a dead guy in the woods isn't going to make any difference."
In the end, they decided to keep the journal secret, and hand over the rest of the stuff to the Reeves; Harrick kept charge of the journal, Terzin the credit note. Excited as they all were, they sat up telling adventurous stories and nibbling roast toad while the night grew darker around them. At a crackling sound from the woods they all hushed and grabbed weapons.
Old Man Jenkins came pushing his way through the brush, making more noise than a giant toad. "I saw your flare," he grunted.
"Evening sir," Robin chirped.
"Big toad," he nodded at its remains laconically.
"Two big toads," Terzin corrected proudly.
"You find the kid?"
"Who's the dead guy?"
"He was in a tree," Harrick said.
"That's why you sent up the flare?"
"Staying here tonight?" the old man asked in his queer, incurious monotone.
"Pretty much," Harrick told him.
"Got anything to drink?"
"Want some?" He sat down next to the fire and offered his flask of corn whiskey around. With an occasional choke, the young adventurers accepted his hospitality. Not too much, though. Loose lips. "Heard you guys telling stories."
"Yup," Robin said, to fill it. Jenkins was kind of creepy at any time, but right now, when everyone was kind of on edge....
"Hear the one about the giant tentacled thing that lives down at the end of the river?" He always had an outrageous story to tell, and he'd obviously been keeping himself well lubricated while looking for the missing boy.
"No," Robin answered, trying to be polite, and they listened to his tale of a squid that had come up on to the Charity River and was pulling down boats, cleared out a whole town at one point, grabbing fishermen from the docks. Terzin gave the others a meaningful look, although what it was supposed to mean was anyone's guess.
"Can we talk about something else?" Jared suggested, a bit uncomfortable with thoughts of river monsters. "Maybe land ghosts."
"You guys get some sleep, I'll keep watch," the old man suggested.
I wouldn't trust you to stand watch if I was dead, Terzin thought. Sure enough, within a few moments Jenkins was asleep, and the others divided up the watches. Terzin went first, then Harrick, Robin, and Jared.
Man, Jenkins sure can snore. He wandered over and poked the old man.
"What?" There was an almost unnatural gleam in his eyes.
"You were snoring," Terzin mumbled. Soon it resumed, but at least the rhythm had changed, and he was left to contemplate the night and the life of adventure that lay ahead. I made six whole pennies today! This rules.
On his turn, Harrick (who could see in the dark) listened to the movements of small animals and spent some time in quiet prayer to Mathylwen. It occurred to him that the trickster god would throw off pursuit by leaving town to the south, then doubling back.
Robin's watch passed quietly in the contemplation of joyful victory. Can't believe I lost a staredown to a toad, though. Father's always telling me to keep looking them in the eye. Next time....
Jared saw the sun come up, nothing else.
"We'd better get back to town," Jenkins announced. "People're gonna be worried about you kids."
"We can handle ourselves," Robin grinned.
"Town's this way."
As if we didn't know that.
"Want me to carry anything? Toad head?" He picked one up.
"You realize this is going to be a story about how he saved us from the giant toad," Harrick muttered to the others.
"No one will believe him," Robin assured him.
"And they'll believe us?" Jared's pessimism was clear.
"I think they'll believe that the four of us could kill a giant toad."
"Yes! Well, we got knocked around a little, but...."
They wrapped the corpse in Jared's fishing net, and he and Terzin carried it between them on a stick. There was no sign of Mortimer on their way back. They passed the Bufon ranch, where Robin's mother saw them passing.
"Thank Kisha you're safe!"
"Look what we got!" Terzin announced. "Toads, and a corpse!"
"That's a big toad," his uncle judged.
"Yup. Kids killed it all on their own, too," Jenkins assured him.
"You're kiddin' me, Jenkins!"
"Nope. Was long since dead by the time I got there."
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Copyright © 2000 Brian Rogers et al