The Shenandoah Reports

Over the River and through the Woods

My, what big teeth you have, grandma!

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David’s house was right on the Rivanna river- close enough that the sounds of the river were able to be heard as they drove up to it. He had neighbors, but the lot was large enough that he didn’t have to deal with them unless he wanted. He’d communed with the local spirits, of the river behind the house, so as they arrived, there were eyes on them before they reached the house.

So it was, on the voice of the wind, that David was warned of impending danger.

“Sir Knight, three of the enemy approach- exiting from my desmene to do harm to you and your companions. They have arms- though not as the hunters bear, but shorter. But make no mistake, they are after you. Take care- I negotiate what I can according to our pact to slow them.”

And as a counterpoint to the statement, they could hear movement through the now-resisting underbrush.

They could try to make it inside David’s wards and other protections- or try to turn the ambush against the ambushers…

David stopped his motion and held up his hand to Monk and Nick. He lowered two of his fingers and held the three fingers up. His blood thundered in his veins. How dare anyone come and threaten not only his holding, but trample through the demesne of the nature spirits around him to do it?

They could run for the wards and safety of the House, but that would leave his allies and neighbors to suffer the wrath. No, this called for direct conflict.

He closed his eyes and let the power of the land, bordering the river, fill him. His right hand went to his sword and he caught the eyes of Monk and Nick and made a small silent head motion toward the noise.

Considering she is a short, lumpy gobber half-breed, Monk courageously decides to remain hidden and let the guys with the swords and such do all the poking and stabbing.

She double checks that her little, black bag is filled with emergency medical materials. She suspects she may be needing it in short order.

Nick glanced in the direction that David had gestured, but saw nothing. “Left my sword in my other pants,” he mumbled, “but maybe I can still help.” He closed his eyes, muttered some incantations, opened his eyes, blinked, and blinked again.

“You’re quite right, David,” he said. “This place seems to be quite well warded. So much so, in fact, that my small talents are completely blocked.” He glanced at Monk, then back at David. “We aren’t going to be much help to you, I’m afraid.”

Monk considered the situation for a moment. Sword versus guns probably wouldn’t go well. They needed an advantage here, beyond the magical wards. Or… their opponents needed a disadvantage.

She begins to concentrate, drawing upon her inner nature, as much as she despises it. She nose lengthens and ears sharpen… an ugly green tint staining her face. Her teeth sharpen to fine needles and her eyes glow with on unnatural light.

The Goblin Woman whispers her curse upon her enemies, “By Bone and Stone, may you fall from your mighty throne. Be cast to the winds and forever hounded by your sins.”

Shadows creep around her, giggling and hissing, the leaves and twigs clustering into unsavory shapes… then rush out into the forest in a chittering horde.

David laughed as the shadows formed and rushed their opponents. He kept his sword guard up, but it quickly looked like their opponents had been thrown off balance and were being drawn off.

Monk’s transformation bothered him not at all.

“Well done.” he said. “We should still move quickly to the house.” David said. But they will not lightly decide to disturb us there.”

Nick wasted no time in following David’s advice.

As they headed towards the house, Nick’s keen ears heard the sound of groaning as the footsteps of their assailants faded into the distance. It could be a trap- but more than likely it was someone that had been caught in the fray…

Nick ran up to the porch. He waited there with what composure he could muster for David to open the door and invite them inside.

David moved up, still wary, watching the scene as he headed to the door. He did unlock the door with a key, but said something underneath his breath. Nick and Monk heard something like their names within that stream of half-words.

He held the door open. “You two may enter, and stay, until the sun sets again.”

Monk rubbed her shoulders, as if she’d gotten a chill she couldn’t quite remove. “I need to lie down,” she said. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

She tried to hide her face from them, shamed by the not-too-subtle changes lingering there.

David waited for them to enter and watched the woods for a good long minute. He was on safe ground, but having someone lurk around in the vicinity disturbed him. But he would not leave his safe space and only watch for the minute, before moving inside to see to his unexpected guests.

The night was silent, other than the normal sounds of nature- but again, on that breeze came the indication that silence didn’t indicate safety.

“Sir Knight, thank your for the fight to clear my demesne of the intruders. One still remains- hobbled by the actions of the changeling, and left behind by his companions. His death is only forestalled by their inclination towards the suffering of others.”

David considered this for a moment. “Thank you” he said to the spirits, softly. “I would question the intruder and violator.”

He turned toward Monk and Nick. “I will be back shortly.”Make yourselves comfortable. This is a violation of the land I hold in conjunction with the locals. I’ll see to him.”

He exited his house, with a slight sigh. He really did need sleep, but this was an opportunity to gain intelligence, too.

He stopped and listened, and followed his instincts and intimations as to where the remaining intruder still lurked.

With his attunement to the area, it was a simple thing to find where the intruder was being held. Vines were bound around him most unnaturally. But their presence seemed… right somehow. More ominously, miniature figures darted in and out, menacing the man with cackles of glee. If one didn’t know what they were looking for, the twisted fae would have been invisible, but the Knight could see that they had done quite a number on him. The coming morn would take care of their presence, so ignoring the jailers, David was able to see other details as he closed.

His gear askew, the man was shown obviously to be just barely that. David would judge him to be no more than 20. Maybe 21. Sandy hair decorated his head- almost, but not quite a crew cut. Stubble also covered his jaw, but it was more fuzz than anything. He looked up at David with a fearful gaze, blue eyes wide and searching. He started to say something, but as he did, cackling rose, and it turned into a cross between a pained yell and a mewling mess.

Cowering, he tried to compose himself as he looked up at David, hoping against hope for some sort of help.

Although the man was bound and for the moment pacified, David crouched out of reach to regard him.

He looked at the small fey around. “You’ve all done well, but I would hear what he has to say. You are brave and fierce, friends. We do not want you to have to fight night after night, however. Let him speak…for the moment.”

“Now” David said to the bound man. “It’s possible that you’ll live out the night. But only if you answer my questions fully and truthfully. If you do not, I will leave you to them.”

“You’ve intruded on them, in trying to reach me, and without cooperation, I see no reason for them not to continue their retribution.”

“Now, who sent you, and why?”

“I… I don’t know”, the man said, looking fearfully at the goblins, then even more fearfully at David’s face.

“I… mean, I never met the people in charge!” he amended quickly. “One of the guys said it was easy money! Just back him up while they took care of business!” he rambled, holding up his hands to ward off a goblin that had ventured close.

Tiny creatures are usually cute. But not goblins. They have some cute features- especially when curious, like this one seemed to be. But they were too menacing and voracious to cross over into the cute category. The dirty green tinged face looked up at David with wide eyes, as if questioning if he could have his toy now.

“It wasn’t personal, man!” the man exclaimed. “It’s hard to get a job with a DD on your back, and it didn’t seem like a big deal!”

David considered this for a few moments. He looked at the goblins, back at the man and shook his head. “You are going to need to give me more. This is insufficient.”

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As the darkness looms and the goblins chitter and wait anxiously, the young man’s eyes open with the kind of fear that crosses the border into irrationality. David knows he’s at a point of crisis- he’ll either get the information now, or something tragic will happen.

What will he do?

“Now” David said, walking toward him. “Let’s try this again, from another angle. My name is David Kiley, also known as Sir Ithildin of Star Lake. Your easy money is a facile answer, and a dishonorable one. It is in the interest of the Court that I do NOT leave you to the Goblins here, but you must cooperate for that to occur.”
He stomped a couple of steps closer.

“Surely there is some piece of information you have. Once this job was done, what was to be your next action? Where were you all going to pick up your payment for completion?”

“You can prevent this tragedy. Speak, and it shall occur.”

gobbos.jpg

The scared man shrunk into himself, skittering back in the spare space that he had.

“I… I…” Then his eyes widened and there was hope. “The cops! One of them really is a cop… or at least knows them. He didn’t tell me his real name, but I overheard them talking… Josh… Josh… Ham… Wha..?”

He stopped in mid sentence, his face taking on a quizzical look as his hand went to the back of his neck and came back… with blood. One of the impatient goblins had taken a bite. A small one to be sure.

But just like with a pack of piranhas that was all that it took. And it was all David could do to get out of the way of the ravening horde.

When they were done, there was little left that hadn’t been shredded, and a stillness settled over the forest.

Burp

“sorry. was hungry.”


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Entering David’s house, the one thing that is immediately notable is that A-frame, while a dated architectural design for houses, had been really made to work.

A very open plan, with split, curving staircases providing access to the three “Floors” within the structure modernized it, with a lot fo natural light illuminating the structure.

Walking into the first floor it was obvious that this was his centerpiece- the entertaining/relaxing/kitchen area. Though the other two floors were visible, there was enough privacy that the guests couldn’t immediately see what their purpose was. But it was a nice house.

A few minutes later, their host returned- no worse for the wear physically, but there was a sense that something had happened…

Monk is staring out the window, trying not to look concerned. She smiles at David, despite her best efforts. “Sooo… how’d it go?”

“Poorly. He did not reveal who he was working for.” David said, breathing a sigh of disappointment when he came inside. “I just didn’t have the leverage to get him to tell me who and what they were working for.”

Nick snored softly on the couch. He’d made a beeline there as soon as the door had opened, and fallen asleep as soon as he could lie down.

“I think that we should follow poor Nick’s example,” David said. “Rest, and be well. If there is ought that you need, my house is yours. We will talk more in the morning.”

Soon, sleep, blessed sleep, took them all on its wings into the morning.

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