Winter Sleeping, Father’s Day 4, Year of the Lion number 427; January 21, 1739 Agathon; Linne 182
I’m surprised I’m still alive. But then, this isn’t the first time I’ve started an entry like this. If I could walk and write, I would, but I’m forced to tell my tale in retrospect.
Even though I’m following the snow-covered road, travel is slow. I’m wet, weary, and, well, over it. The beauty and splendor of newly fallen snow has become a world of white, grey, cold, wet, and discomfort. A day after I left the farmhouse, it began snowing again. And the wind blew. And the air grew colder. My fingers and toes were numb. My nose covered in a layer of ice. My lungs struggled, unable to warm my own breath. I wrapped my thin coat tight around me, but its dampness didn’t keep the heat out. I was sure the dragon card I carried was warmer than the air.
In the summer time, this road is well travelled. Inns, farms, and even the occasional guard post dotted the route at regular intervals giving shelter to wanderers like me. But the snow storms reduced my vision so that I could only see a few yards ahead. Perhaps I passed places that would have taken me in. As it was, I trudged day after day, alone, through the mire.
On the fifth day, this morning – at least I think it was morning – I saw two figures standing in the road ahead of me. At first, I thought they were children, but as I approached, the shorter one had a long beard and a funny, pointy purple hat. The girl, er, woman, looked like a human child, but I realized that she was a Halfling.
I walked up to them, thinking they would lead me to a place of shelter nearby. I was in for a surprise.
She held a long dagger in her hand. “Give me all your money, traveler, if you want to live.”
“What?” I laughed. I couldn’t believe these diminutive folks were bandits. “You’re kidding, right?”
“Do I look like I’m kidding?” she asked. The gnome whispered something and moved his hands. Suddenly I felt a great compulsion to do what they said. I fought back against the mental invasion and as quickly as it came, it was gone. But the distraction gave her the advantage. She jumped at me, blade first. I twisted away as the blade ripped through my jacket and bit into my flesh.
I slashed back with my claws and scraped her fur-lined coat harmlessly. The gnome stepped back and pointed at me. A flare of green light shot from his extended fingers, painfully knocking me backwards.
I realized I was outmatched against these two. There’s no way I’d be able to get past her to get to him, and as long as he could hit me with his spells, they would wear me down until I was defeated. Letting her take a shot at me, I jumped away and ran at full speed into veiled mist off the road. Her blade grazed my side but didn’t bite this time. Off the road and into the sparse, bare trees, I bounded. I caught a branch and, like a monkey, swung from branch to branch, tree to tree, so that I would leave no trail for them to follow.
I heard them cursing as I escaped, but I kept moving for several moments. Finally, I stopped when I was far enough that I couldn’t hear them, and hopefully, they couldn’t hear me. I checked my wound and it looked like my coat was soaking up the blood. None dripped in the snow below. For an hour I waited, high in a tree, holding pressure against the cut to staunch the bleeding. Warily, I climbed down and returned to the roadside. I saw their tracks leaving the road in the other direction. For several hours, I remained in the trees as I continued my journey. Constantly I looked back to see if they had picked up my trail, but it seemed I was safe.
As the grey skies grew darker, I was relieved to see a lone building near the road up ahead. Smoke billowed invitingly from the stone chimney. Several horses huddled together in a small stable attached to the side. The sign above the door read “Arrachelf’s Garden.” The door was unlocked and I entered. Inside was just as warm and inviting as I’d imagined and hoped. The matron led me to the hearth, sat me down, and offered me a choice of several warm drinks. She saw that I was wounded and called her son to come and help. The young man was quick and efficient as he cleaned the cut and bound it with fresh cloths. I told them about what happened and they said that this pair of bandits had been seen before: Ember, the Halfling, and Kistler, the gnome. They’d only been around since the summer, but had already made a name for themselves. Hopefully, someone would do something about them.
“They took me by surprise. I didn’t expect them to be a threat when I saw them,” I said.
“That’s what they do,” she confirmed.
They put in a room upstairs and told me the first night of my stay was free. I thanked them, gave them some silver coins anyway, and assured them that I’d be okay and that I needed to get on with my journey as quickly as possible.
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