Major Cullens strapped their sword belt around their waist. It had been sometime since they had been in a proper battle. And as far as the history books were concerned no wars had ever been fought in Flint. If this was the exiles or perhaps an aggressive pirate band then this could be a serious conflict. July felt the fear they had right before the Battle of the Broken Horn. But then July saw their friends. Flint had rallied and between the military and the volunteer Militia, July knew they would be quickly returning back home. Flint always looked after its own.
* * *
lit a candle in her window. As she always did when Flint’s citizens went in to danger, she quietly but purposefully cast a ritual of protection and hope over the town. This was her town and her people in danger. She knew the Major and the military guild were capable and would bring her people home. But she still steeled herself for the worst possibilities. These were strange days and she knew she had to be ready for anything.
* * *
The Major and their assembled militia rode out of Flint at dawn heading west towards Levantra Pass. July hoped that it was merely that the Pass was blocked or that a broken wagon wheel had delayed the Leyton
homesteaders, but deep down, a growing fear began to blossom in their gut. The riders arrived in Bayside
that evening, spending the night and departing at first light, the line of the Cadmar Mountains growing bigger and bigger against the western sky with each passing mile. The group camped for a second night just past where the western road branched, the larger branch heading south, wrapping around mighty Raen’s Peak and finishing at the mining homestead of Raen's View
. The following morning, the riders continued west along the less used branch, heading into the Levantra Pass
as it crept up the steep hills to the north of Raen’s Peak and deeper into the mountains. The Major’s heart sank as they saw the Pass was clear, dashing some of their hopes for a simple and easy answer to the missing homesteaders.
* * *
After the Governor’s Dinner, Field Marshal Urfexa
threw down her dress and donned her armor with haste, grabbing her axe as she headed out the door. Whatever caused Leyton to miss the Governor’s Dinner could be on its way to Flint. Urfexa would patrol night and day making sure the citizens of Flint were kept safe. She was already tired from having to socialize and play politics during the party, but she would always do what she had to do to keep Flint safe. Always.
* * *
As the sun reached its zenith on the third day, the Major and their group reached the crest of the Pass. To their right, the mountainside fell away, plunging all the way down to where the Wonlu River spilled through the Pass, finally emptying its contents into Flint Bay. Looking out to the west, the riders stared in wonder at the vast forest that blanketed the landscape. For many of the assembled riders, this was the first time they had seen the grand Torakand interior that lay beyond the Cadmar Mountains. The western road continued down, edging north of the vast bulk of Mount Nishati before finally vanishing around the far side of that mountain as the road headed south towards Leyton. The Major, glancing west at the horizon, took note of the dark smudge of gathering storm clouds. Knowing they had only half a day’s light left, they put spurs to their horse’s flank and sped down the Pass, the other riders following quickly behind. The group made camp at the western base of the Pass at a clearing often used for that purpose. Sadly, the camp showed no sign of recent use, the firepit containing no recent ash and the only tracks disturbing the area belonging to the local wildlife. At dawn, the Major and their compatriots road out, hoping to cover the remaining distance to Leyton before midday.
* * *
Back in Flint, the days progressed and Cornelius
studied the wagons with Quartermaster Fechin Keane
and his predecessor, the recently returned Maester Baelor Margavkin
and prepared for resupplying the homesteads in the Spring. His dinner had been a profitable with the investors and Flint would surely flourish in the coming year. The Governor did have some concern about the unfortunate business with Leyton, but he had let the Major off their chain to deal with it, and the Major was so good at being the hero. If anyone could find out what had happened, it was the Major and the enthusiastic military guild and the brave folks who had signed up as militia. However, regardless of the situation in Leyton, it was time to crunch some numbers and see to Flint’s prosperity. After all, Flint needed protection not only in the physical sense, but also the economic sense as well. Everyone in the colony had their part to play, and the Governor’s part was to ensure Flint’s success.
* * *
Long before the riders arrived at the homestead of Leyton, the Major knew something was wrong. For one, no smoke rose from any chimney. Additionally, no sounds of life reached their ears. No bleating of sheep, no laughter of children, no sounds at all. Leyton stood as silent as the grave. Soon after, the riders rode into Leyton and felt a chill run up their spines as they looked around at the deserted homestead with doors left hanging open, clothes still hanging on lines, and livestock paddocks empty. The worried group questioned the Major, but they told everyone to remain calm and that the area needed to be searched before any conclusions could be drawn.
* * *
could not believe how truly wild Flint was. She had read her brother’s letters, but nothing could prepare her for how opportunistic, reckless, courageous, foolish, and utterly exciting these people were. They treated life and death situations like they were a game and politics as if it was the lunch table in primary school. Luckily, she was good at games and if there was anything she loved in this world, it was winning. Certainly, she had her work cut out for her with these...rustic folks...in the ritualist guild, but she’d whip them into shape and the rest of Flint would fall in line soon enough.
* * *
For the remainder of the day and well into the next, the Major and their militia methodically searched the area around Leyton for signs of the missing homesteaders. Several things were learned. First, the entrance to the Leyton mine had collapsed and without the aid of much heavier equipment than the group had brought with them, there was little chance of clearing the entrance. Second, several of the animal paddocks had fencing damaged, appearing as if the livestock within had been frightened and stampeded out. Third, it appeared that whatever had happened to the homesteaders occurred in the middle of the day and all at once. Unfinished food was found sitting on tables, clothing being mended had been dropped on the floor next to chairs, and weapons were found secure in their chests and lockboxes. Last, but certainly not least, the secure storage building containing the wellstones remained locked and barred, a fact that the Major knew the Governor and his wife would be relieved to learn.
* * *
spent his days scurrying this way and that carrying maps, diagrams of skeletal structures flying loose, grids of terrain piled high, and pens jostling loose. He had faintly heard a Snallygaster
just over this hill. He had to run quick as he could and take notes on it. Darn it! Late again. At least it left behind a glorious paw print from him to analyze. And some scat too! How marvelous! Maybe someday he’d get to see the full beast in all its glory.
* * *
As evening fell in Leyton, the group gathered at what passed for a small tavern for their evening meal, and the Major addressed them. The Major said that they and a few of the trained militia would stay behind in Leyton, but that the rest had to return to Flint and summon aid and to notify the colony of what had happened here. There were protests, but the Major stood firm. The group did not have the equipment or personnel needed to clear the mine entrance or to mount a wider search for the missing homesteaders. The Major and some soldiers would stay in Leyton in case the homesteaders returned, confident that their military training would allow them to deal with any contingency. At dawn, as the riders prepared for departure, the Major approached one of their soldiers and handed them two sealed letters, the thicker one marked for the Field Marshal detailed what the group had found and contained the Major’s suggestions on how to proceed, the second thin letter was marked for the Governor and contained a single phrase above the Major’s signature…”I fear they have found us.”
* * *
Dog whistled while they worked. A little more green. A little more gold. Some lines across the ridge of the nose. Excellent! Dog aligned the strings and tossed the figurine into place with the rest. All the puppets were lined up. The explorers guild running behind Virgil, the fools following their fool Major, the Countess pacing in her manor, the acquisitions guild counting their earnings with Cornelius, the crafters going over their new hoards of materials, the ritualists busy trying to puzzle their pieces together, and then there was that monster patrolling outside of Flint tiring herself down. With all the puppets done, it was time to begin the show. Dog just loved a good show and nobody put on a better show in Flint than Dog. They reached out and grabbed the handles for their newest favorite puppets and began to make them dance...