Spacer Chapter 1 5
  | Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Earthdawn-ish | Chapter 1 |



Terzin started to say something clever, but Robin said firmly, "Dad needs us back at the ranch." We're supposed to act normal, remember?

"Was he carrying any weapons, by any chance?" Kendrick asked suddenly.

"Everything seemed to have been rotted away," Terzin replied.

"Maybe he lost it," his cousin added.

"Possibly. He must have been desperate to have tried what he did."

"We found some boxes," Terzin went on, "but the contents were long since gone."

Kendrick handed over a silver penny, suggested they have a little something at the Toadstool before they had to be getting home. Which in fact is what they did.

John Hostel gave them each an ale on the house, commiserated with them on their failure to break the toad record, and listened to the story of the previous day's adventure with every sign of great interest. Kendrick's penny sufficed for an excellent lunch. Feeling important and very nearly adult, they enjoyed themselves a great deal, although not so much that they didn't watch their tongues. No one mentioned, for instance, Harrick's newly revealed ability to turn things into pincushions on a vast scale. He got enough grief from the townsfolk, on account of being an orc and all, with him and his parents the only ones in the village. Hostel absorbed every vivid detail, obviously prepared to spread the story to the rest of the village.

"See, this is what happens to adventurers," Terzin insisted quietly when Hostel had gone to attend someone else. "People give you drinks, they listen to you...."

Then he was back. "So you guys are gonna be the ones to watch at the Spring Festival," Hostel observed. "You gonna enter the toad wrestling competitions?"

"No," Terzin replied shortly.

"Sounds like you did quite well with your bow, that's not really toad wrangling. Maybe we should add an archery competition this year," he remarked for Terzin's sake. "Not sure anyone else uses a bow, but... I'll talk to people on the council."

Overall they enjoyed themselves immensely, and then it was time to return to their normal, tortuously dull lives. There was an extra spring in their step as they faced them, however, and at Terzin's somewhat overexcited urging they made a plan to meet at the lightning-struck tree outside town, after moonrise. Robin's father was obviously pleased with them, since they didn't get assigned any of the really unpleasant jobs. Jared returned to the river and fixed his net, trying to get all the pieces of dead guy out of it.

Later that day, Edward Tanner dropped by the Bufon household to see how things were going—surprise surprise, just in time for dinner. Even less surprising, he got seated across from Robin, who smiled politely and talked about toad-killing. Of course, since his dad ran the slaughterhouse, he didn't find that at all off-putting, as she'd kind of hoped he would. He just seemed interested. And he wasn't a bad guy, really. Good-looking, charming enough despite her determination not to be charmed, the grandson of the formidable Teague. Certainly a good catch. If you wanted to catch him.

And of course, later that night, her mother sat her down for a Talk.

"We're very proud of you for what you did out there in the woods, you and Terzin. You did very well. But, well... Edward's been coming around a lot lately."

"I hadn't noticed."

"We were just wondering whether or not you like the boy."

"Um.... I don't know." She fidgeted. "I mean, he's nice and all."

"He certainly seems to like you. And you know... it would be nice to cement relations between our family and his. We're still in a precarious position."

"We can take the Warts any day," Robin wrinkled her nose.

"I'm sure your father shares your optimism, but what if something were to happen to him? We have to think of the future, and this would certainly... his family's very aggressive about their business needs, and ours has always been very forward-thinking.... It's your life, you can do whatever you want," she hastened to add, no doubt seeing adolescent storm clouds on the horizon.

How forward-thinking can you be about toads? Robin wondered, feeling like Terzin for a moment. "I'll, um, I'll think about it," she temporized.

"The big festival's coming up, you all ready for the wrestling? I think you've got a good chance of winning this year."

"I hope so." She'd rather think about toads than Edward.

"Get a good night's sleep."

Harrick, ever practical, had once asked her why not marry Edward? It would be socially and materially advantageous, and given that she could probably lift the guy with one hand, he would hardly be able to tell her what to do. She just couldn't really see it, quite, and the fact that the entire town seemed to have an opinion on the matter didn't help. Given who she spent her time with, Jared seemed the only other option in most people's eyes—unless she had some sort of unwholesome yen for orcs—and he definitely took a distant second place in their esteem. The whole thing seemed kind of unnecessary to her.

Terzin and Robin snuck out easily enough—Terzin did it all the time—and met the others to talk about their plans. After a lot of arguing about which direction to go, if they should tell anyone they were going, and if so what sort of story to use, they made their decision. They would leave a note saying that they had gone down river to Briardale with the larger toad head, in hopes that the museum there might be interested in it; it had all sorts of weird things in it meant to represent the "wonders of the woods." Jared could get a boat easily enough, and they would set out southwards, then pull the boat over and head north. Circle around Crapaud and start looking for the lost town. It was a whimsical errand at best, and no doubt their families would be furious, but it would give them a couple of weeks before anyone seriously expected them back.

"They're gonna think we're dead," Robin sighed. "If anyone asks, this was your idea and I just went along to keep you out of trouble."

"Come on, we gotta do this!" Terzin insisted, giving them all a pleading look. "Think how good it felt today! Free food, free beer, everybody talking about us!"

"They always talk about us," Jared pointed out.

"Yeah, but they were saying GOOD things about us!"

It was a definite change. They agreed to leave in two days. Everyone gave Terzin a couple pennies to buy food and some supplies with the next day; he had some real dwarf rations—he'd been preparing for this for a long time—but no one else had been thinking about it much.

Jared arranged for transport without much trouble. Harrick, as always, attended his lessons with Kendrick, asking his mentor why he had not used Direction Zephyr to find Mortimer.

"Because it has a range, and he's outside it. Because I fear that he is dead, and I do not want to abandon hope yet. Because his father is an important man in the community, and we should look like we are attempting to rescue him. I have attempted it; he is outside its reach." Sobering reasons, all of them.

Early the next morning, well before dawn, it was time to go.Terzin snuck into the storage shed on the armiger's estate and grabbed the toad head. And a couple of arrows to replace the ones he had lost killing the toad. Put the note where it would be found at home, signed "Terzin & Co."

Harrick looked around the little den and his parents shared; he knew where they kept their little stash of extra money. He added five of his pennies to the few there, without telling them of course.

The four met at the boat and headed off downstream. Jared was the only one really at home on the water; the cousins at least knew how to swim, but Harrick was somewhat uneasy until they found a deserted spot on the western shore to pull the boat up onto the bank.

They divided up the gear that needed to be carried; Terzin had so many weapons that, as usual, Robin wound up carrying his backpack. The extra weight didn't bother her. Jared took the rations in his pack. Harrick had a tent. They were pretty sure they had everything they would need.

They let Terzin set the pace to get it out of his system. It would be twelve days or so before people really started worrying, and it would probably take them three days to reach the lost town; no time to waste in his opinion. They might even get back just in time for the Festival, which would, as he remarked, "Rule." Even Robin was picking up on his enthusiasm.

| Top |


Copyright © 2000 Brian Rogers et al