Interlude 12: Spurred to Action
The Ingerland Council debates venturing south

A full meeting of the Ingerland Council was underway. Everyone had a healthy portion of honey cakes and wine. Most members listened attentively, while others did other things and listened only absently.

“Next item on the agenda, a last minute addition from Svetlana,” Doug said, “the southern Narlmarches.”

“Yes,” Svetlana said, standing up. “I’ve received several requests from trappers and woodsmen that we open up more of the forest south of the Boggard.”

“Since when did we close the forest south of the Boggard?” Doug asked, looking around the table.

“We haven’t, to my knowledge, but….” Svetlana began.

“I’ll take this, “Dave interjected. “I’ve been telling everyone, and having my rangers tell everyone, to avoid going much more than ten miles south of the Boggard. It’s just too dangerous down there. I don’t have the manpower to start patrolling an area as untamed as that yet.”

“I don’t pretend to know the details,” Svetlana added, “but Corax Feller did venture to the far south Narlmarches. Several trappers had told him of a cache of coachwood groves there. He verified at least one such grove himself. He would have looked for others, but he was chased off by a large creature. He called it a troll, but….he admitted he didn’t really know what one looked like.”

“Well, there you go,” Dave said, gesturing, palm up, “too dangerous.”

“This whole land was too dangerous once,” Doug said. “Six men were able to change that. I think we’ve done admirable work over the last year, and still have work to do, but it sounds as if there is a need right now. I don’t see the point in putting off an expedition by those same six any longer. This isn’t the first such request we’ve postponed or handled minimally such a petition. There’s the haunted burial mound, the hodag, the centaurs.”

“But is this the time?” Eric asked. “There’s still a great deal to be done in the north we control now. I know we should be proactive with threats, but do we want to risk potentially kicking a hornet’s nest? Whatever the decision, the people’s safety must be our first priority.”

“It would be a difficult time for me,” Jesse said, barely looking up from his wine.

Doug looked around the room at everyone. Some seemed more interested in the discussion than others.

“Let’s not argue about it,” Brian interjected. “Doug, as steward, you do not have the power to order such a thing of the Council, but you do have the power to demand a vote on the matter. Might I suggest that we put it to a Council vote?”

“You’re correct, as usual,” Doug said to Brian.

“I wrote most of our powers and procedures,” Brian replied. “If someone beside you and Svetlana had bothered to show up when they were written, likely many others would have had the ability to come to the same conclusion.”

“But that’s why we have you for such things,” Jason said.

“Okay, okay. Let’s put it to a vote,” Doug said loudly. “Should a…subcommittee of the Council…namely our steward, high-mage, sheriff, marshal, spymaster, and ambassador….be sent within the week to the south to address the petition regarding the southern Narlmarches, as well as other petitions for the region, as time permits? My vote is ‘yes’. Svetlana?”

“As the people’s voice, I have to say ‘yes’,” Svetlana replied.

“Oleg must abstain,” Doug said, “Kesten?”

“I’d prefer a focus on reinforcing our existing controlled regions for the time being,” Kesten stated. “My men work hard, but our fortifications are still far from adequate.”

“There you go,” Jesse interrupted. “Excellent points, Kesten.”

“So,” Kesten continued, glaring a bit at Jesse. “I’m afraid that’s a ‘no’ from me.”

“We have two ‘for’ and one ‘against’,” Doug clarified. “Jhod?”

“I feel it would be Erastil’s wish to clear the evil from the forest, and he would look favorably upon Ingerland for such an effort from us,” Jhod explained. “Therefore, I vote ‘yes’.”

“Three ‘for’ and one ‘against’,” Doug recapped. “And it would make Erastil pleased. How ever can we deny Erastil? Jason, your vote.”

“As much as I respect the will of the people and the needs of Erastil,” Jason said, pausing to finish his cup of wine, “I have many….uh, diplomatic matters that have immediacy and time-sensitivity and require my personal attention here in Ingerton.”

“Brewing?” Doug asked.

“There might be brewing and other….matters as well,” Jason answered.

“It could be a chance to meet with the centaur tribes,” Doug said.

“I have sent them a dispatch, proposing a diplomatic meeting, and I would prefer to wait for that response,” Jason replied.

“You have to state your vote,” Doug said, “for the official record.”

“No,” Jason stated.

“Okay. That’s three ‘for’ and two ‘against’.” Doug summarized once more. “Eric?”

“As I said, my concern is that we could be kicking a hornet’s nest that is still far from the cabin,” Eric said. “Do we want to risk bringing to town a problem that is currently limited to frontier? I fear this is what could happen with…with the centaurs, in particular, they trod on Varnhold’s fields. Ingerland could be next. My charge is to protect the towns and their citizenry, and that must be my priority in voting. Therefore, my vote is ‘no’.”

“Three ‘for’ and three ‘against’ and three votes to go then,” Doug said. “David?”

“If one puts off pulling the weeds too long, the garden quickly becomes nothing but weeds,” Dave said. “I’m not sure we’re adequately tamed within our lands, but I fear ignoring these problems any longer will only lead to them encroaching on us at a time of their choosing, rather than ours. As my charge is controlling the frontiers of our land, my vote is ‘yes’.”

“Four-three. Jesse?” Doug asked.

“I can see how some of these long-winded responses are driving you insane,” Jesse answered, “so I will, of course….continue to be long-winded.”

“Of course you will,” Doug said.

“Though this is a crucial juncture in our geographic and political position for the region, I am in the midst of quite a number of temporally sensitive upgrades to our espionage infrastructure…” Jesse began.

“I’m sorry for interrupting,” Doug said, rubbing his brow and laughing, “but what in the names of all the gods have you been reading?”

“Is it that obvious?” Jesse asked.

“Yes,” several people said.

“Brian gave me this to read,” Jesse said, pulling a handful of scrolls from his coat. “It’s a history of the power behind the throne during the empire of…”

“I think I speak for everyone when I ask of your to stop and just give us your answer so that it can go into the record,” Doug interrupted.

“Fine,” Jesse replied. “I am badly needed for immediate whoring and consumption of spirits. So, ‘nay’.”

“I appreciate you candor and honesty,” Doug said.

“That’s redundant,” Brian injected.

“Noted,” Doug said with a nod. “Four to four, one abstention, and one vote left to be cast. Brian, it comes down to you.”

“And I have been listening to all of the rationales both ‘for’ and ‘against’. It has been particularly noted that most are using the charge of their office as the foundation for their vote,” Brian explained. “I find this both admirable and appropriate. In that same vein, I’m afraid I also have some rather time-sensitive matters over the next several weeks, and possibly longer depending on trade routes. There are some tomes coming through by caravan that I will have access to for just a short period of time. They are important for our understanding of the region’s eldritch history.”

“There’s a ‘no’ in there, right?” Doug asked.

“Uh…yes,” Brian said, “as in, ‘no’.”

“I see,” Doug said, with a little disappointment. “Five ‘against’, and that’s a majority vote, everyone. The record will reflect that the vote was ‘against’. Perhaps we’ll take up the issue again in the future, Svetlana.”

Svetlana nodded.

Doug made some notes onto some parchment.

“I have nothing else on the agenda for today,” Doug stated. “Does anyone have any last minute requests before adjournment?”

Everyone shook their heads, some obviously eager to leave.

“Very well,” Doug said, “This meeting is officially adjourned. Before everyone leaves, however, we should confirm the details for the next Council meeting.”

“We’re not meeting next week, same time?” Jason asked, putting on his coat.

“No,” Doug replied. “The next Council meeting will be in ten days at dawn in the southern Narlmarches next to the waterline where we found that slaughtered unicorn last year.”

“That’s not how the vote went,” Jason argued. “You can’t just over-ride a majority Council decision. Uhm…can he, Brian?”

“No, he absolutely cannot,” Brian agreed.

“Absolutely,” Doug agreed, “wouldn’t dream of it. It would be an act of anarchy and completely in violation of the rule of law that we established. Without any argument from me, the vote stands.”

Everyone looked Doug in silence for several moments.

“However….Brian, can you remind everyone who has sole authority to set the date and time…and location of Council meetings?” Doug asked.

“No,” Jesse said, mouth agape, looking toward Brian.

“The steward,” Brian ceded.

“Wow,” Jesses said quietly, slumping in his seat with a half-smile, “Well played, Douglas Smith. Well played.”

“You’re saying he can just…?” Jason started to ask.

“He can,” Brian reconfirmed, “for now. I think that’s a rule we’ll be putting to a Council vote as needing a change.”

“Certainly,” Doug said, making a note on parchment again. “Of course, as this meeting was officially adjourned, that vote will have to be the first order of business at our next meeting.”

“The next meeting in the Narlmarches?” Kesten asked.

“Yes,” Doug replied, “but as the steward also assigns required attendees; Kesten, Jhod, Oleg, and Svetlana, are all designated as optional attendees for the next meeting only.”

Brian nodded as everyone looked toward him for a confirmation.

“All required attendees should meet morning after next to begin the journey south,” Doug announced, as people began shuffling out.

Brian and Jesse wanted by the door until Doug was leaving.

“That works only once,” Brian said plainly.

“I know,” Doug replied.

“That was devious,” Jesse said. “I’d be proud if I wasn’t one of the ones being suckered.”

“Sorry,” Doug replied. “It was only a back-up. I was cautiously hopeful the votes would go my way.”.

“Since I no longer have a choice otherwise,” Brian stated, “I would say that I’m now rather looking forward to getting out on the dark paths once again, the promise of both danger and wonder at each turn.”

“Liar,” Jesse said.

“Yeah,” Brian admitted.

They all laughed.

Interlude 11: Budget Problems
The council questions expenses incurred

Oleg Leveton, Jesse Cook, and Douglas Smith sat around one end of the Council’s meeting table. Pieces of parchment were scattered between them, clogged with figures, and an abacus sat before Oleg.

“So, what does this all mean?” Jesse asked.

“It means we cannot approve the budget increase you asked for,” Oleg said.

“Doug, we’ve talked about this,” Jesse explained. “You agreed with me.”

“I still agree with you, but I can’t give you what isn’t there,” Doug replied. “To give you everything you want would mean a total re-budgeting. I have a certain amount of discretionary budgeting that I can move around under my sole authority, but it’s very limited. This goes way beyond what I have left.”

“Exactly,” Oleg added.

“A re-budgeting means a full Council vote,” Doug explained. “Do you really want to try and convince Kesten and Dave that you deserve a larger budget than they do? Do you see what I’m saying? I may agree with you, but I’m just one vote. I’d be surprised if you could get even one more…maybe Jason.”

“It gets worse,” Oleg said.

“Well aren’t you just full of good news,” Felkik complained. “What is it?”

“You’ve been overspending,” Oleg said. “I’m sorry, but you’re the one who insisted on accounting methods with as little detail as possible. Had I a complete ledger of activities, I might have been able to foresee this and warn you months earlier.”

“Not this again,” Jesse said with a sigh. “I’ve explained before. It’s to protect my sources. A piece of paper can be stolen, accidently viewed by someone else if lost. The information in my head cannot.”

“Unfortunately, your head is proving less accurate than my abacus,” Oleg explained. “Numbers don’t lie.”

“You just said that I still have…” Jesse began, rifling through papers on the desk.

“Yes, that is what you have left, but look here,” Oleg said, sliding another document in front of Jesse. “This is what you have been spending on average each month. You don’t have enough remaining to continue that level of spending through the budgeted year.”

Jesse looked at the numbers, squinted, counted in his head and on his fingers a few times.

“Crap,” he finally said. “I hate when you’re right, Oleg. So, how much will I be able to spend each month?”

Oleg began flicking away on his abacus and making notations on a small piece of parchment. He slid the document over to Jesse, passing it front of Doug at the same time.

“This is what you can spend,” Oleg said. “It’s about fifteen percent less than what you’ve spend over the last eight months.”

Jesse rubbed his temples.

“You’re going to have to really pour on the old Jesse Cook charm,” Doug said.

Less than an hour later, Jesse walked past a butcher shop in the way to Oakmoor Tavern. A vase of fresh daisies hung from a rope next to the door. Without a change in his stride, but still a quick look around, he snatched most of the daisies from the vase, and gathered them in his hand into a bouquet.

He quickly reached Oakmoor Tavern and entered through the wide door. It was small, but clean, and had surprisingly good food. The back door led directly to its neighbor, the second largest brothel in town. Jesse had been through that door many times, but the woman he was after was no whore.

He approached the barkeep. He was a thin man, older than Jesse, short cropped grey hair. He had a completely foreign accent, and usually a look on his face that there was a stink. Inextricably, his name was ‘Bob’.

“Hey, Bob. Serina in?” Jesse asked, waiting patiently for a reply that was bound to be caustic, possibly sarcastic.

“Aye,” Bob answered. “Bet she ‘as no tim fer da likes o’ yer scarny becksid.”

“Helpful as always, Bob,” Jesse replied. “I’ll just show myself up.

There was a steep staircase at the back that led up to the apartment of the owner, one Serina Oakmoor. Jessie climbed the stairs and scanned the room below as he walked toward her door. In the middle of the room were the Carpenter brothers. They were quick tempered, but not bad sorts. They worked hard, and there was plenty of building going on, and played hard. In a corner watching the door were Pearl and Annie. They were two girls from the brothel looking to stir up some new business. Serina had a good relationship with the brothel, taking a small cut of whatever business her tavern might send their way, and selling a few drinks to gents ‘waiting their turn’. Finally, in another corner sat Caldus Baggert. He was a traveling merchant, mainly trading goods bought in Restov to more distant venues. He came through every two months or so. He was a snob, never drinking with his men, who were presumably at another tavern, but he was a good source of spices and quality fabrics.

Jesse reached the door and knocked louder than usual. It was not a visit she was expecting. There was a slight scraping sound, and a green eye peered out through the one-inch eyehole, which then closed back up. The door opened.

Serina Oakmoor was Jesse’s height. She had long dark hair, usually tied up, a fair complexion, and was slightly older than Jesse. She looked at everyone suspiciously.

“This is unexpected,” she said. “An actual social call?”

“No,” Jesse replied. “It’s….look, can I come in?”

She gave an emotively flirtatious smile for anyone watching and opened the door wide for Jesse to enter. He did.

As soon as the door was closed, her expression changed to curiosity.

“Is there an emergency?” She asked. “Please don’t tell me I’m found out already.”

“No, no,” Jesse assured her, dropping the daisies into a waste bin. “It’s nothing like that. There’s still not a scrap of paper anywhere with both our names on it. The only person who knows our connection is the Steward, and he knows nothing beyond that it exists.”

“Well, that’s necessary in case you ever meet with an untimely demise. I’d still want to be paid for my services,” she replied.

“Funny you should bring that up,” Jesse said with a smile, “being paid for your services, that is.”

“I don’t know why you’re smiling,” Serina said, sitting down on the stool in front of her dressing table. “You know I usually don’t find conversations about money to be very funny.”

“Oh, I know,” Jesse agreed, “and I know you won’t find this one funny either.”

“I take it the increase we discussed is not going to happen,” Serina said with stern disappointment.

“No,” Jesse replied quickly, and taking a seat on the bed.

“Bramble and Crown are working on expanding their networks on my say so, and they have to pay their informants,” Serina complained. “You told me you could get it.”

“I don’t seem to have quite the flair for accounting that I thought I had,” Jesse replied, “which leads me to the second and related issue. It seems I’ve already been overspending and, at least for the next several months, I’m going to have to cut back from our original agreement. Now, before you get as angry as your raised arms seem to indicate you’re about to get, I’ve figured out a way for you to work with these financial cuts and still maintain your network.”

“Is that right,” she said, forcibly calming herself. “Please enlighten me.”

“You could cut your own overhead,” Jesse said, knowing the backlash was inevitable.

“Is that right?” Serina asked sarcastically. “Even were I willing to do it, there’s barely any overhead to cut. This will affect all of the spies you depend on, now even Acorn too. Frankly, I don’t know if they’ll even stay on or be able to maintain their networks. I don’t know if I’ll stay on. Perhaps I should just move on to somewhere else where my skills and connections are appreciated and adequately compensated.”

“Serina,” Jesse said with a knowing smile, “you and I both know that’s not going to happen.”

“And why not?” She asked calmly.

“I didn’t go into this totally blind,” Jesse answered. “I don’t pretend to know exactly why you left Bardston, but I know it wasn’t completely your choice. The fact that you came to Ingerland, where people come to disappear and leave the past in the past, also speaks volumes. I know. I did the same. You don’t have as many choices as you might pretend.”

“I left Bardston because I refused to rat out an employer,” She said.

“That part I’d heard,” Jesse replied. “That’s why I approached you when I saw you in town.”

“I thought it was my eyes,” she said.

“Well, that, plus I remembered back in the old days,” Jesse said. “Maybe we never met, but everyone used to tell me how good you were. You had connections for every job.”

“It wasn’t so long ago,” Serina retorted.

“Maybe not in years,” Jesse sighed, “but a lifetime still…for both of us.”

“Okay, so you’ve softened me up with compliments and waxing about the ‘old days’,” she said, “and you’ve robbed me of my leverage in the argument to boot. So, let’s get right to it. What sort of cuts are we talking about?”

“Twenty percent,” Jesse said.

“Ten percent,” she countered. “Anything more than that, and I’m paying spies out of my own pocket.”

“Sure you are,” Jesse said sarcastically. “Fifteen.”
“Done,” she replied quickly, “but in four months I expect a raise or I really will commit time to looking for a new home.”

“Fair,” Jesse replied.

They sat in silence a moment.

“Anything new?” Jesse asked.

“You know I don’t get dispatches until tomorrow,” she replied. “That’s why I was surprised to see you.”

“Well, I didn’t necessarily mean about…you know, work,” Jesse explained. “You, your life.”

“Are you trying to talk me up?” she asked, finally smiling again.

“Well, I just thought,” Jesse began, “we’ve known each other a long time, you’ve a beautiful woman, I’m sitting here on this comfy bed.”

“You’re a little randy after winning an argument,” Serina added.

“I’m a man. You’re a woman,” Jesse continued.

“No,” she said flatly.

“Sorry, I…” Jesse began.

“You haggle me down, humiliate me a bit, and now you think I might jump in the sack with you?” She asked.

“I guess not,” Jesse said.

“That is the correct guess,” she said. “Try a pleasant conversation next time. Try bringing a bottle of wine up with you. Try not throwing the damn flowers in the trash. Is all this getting through?”

“It is crystal clear,” Jesse said, standing up, “but should I stay a little longer, just to keep up appearances?”

“I think I have it covered,” Serina replied, reaching into the trash bin.

She pulled out the daisies and walked Jesse to the door.

“Go!” She yelled, opening it.

Jesse stepped out and turned to say goodbye just as the flowers struck him across the face and fell to the ground as the door slammed. Jesse turned and smiled apologetically at the attention he’d just gotten from the Carpenter brothers. He left using the back door.

Interlude 10: Questionable Practices
The Spymaster does what is necessary to secure the kingdom

It was a near moonless night as four thieves approached the wagon parked to the side of the road. There was a gusting breeze that covered the sound of footsteps through the underbrush.

The man at the front of the pack was named Dorn Houker. He was born in Restov and had only recently come to visit Ingerland. The robbery was his idea. It was an idea given to him by his brother who had worked the mine for a month before getting fired, then arrested, for some past horse-thievery that had caught up to him. Dorn promised to bring his brother, imprisoned in Restov, a share of the take. Dorn had never kept a promise in his life.

The wagon was filled with unrefined gold ore. It wasn’t as valuable as the ingots and dust that travelled via better protected caravans, but it would net a good sum from the right metal smiths in Restov.

The two men directly behind Dorn were named Jek and Herren. Dorn had met and hired them in Restov. He’d overheard them talking about moving to Ingerland for new opportunities. They were clearly amateurs to this sort of work, but it was a relatively simple task for Dorn to convince them of a short cut to some coin.

Behind all of them was a man Dorn found in Ingerton, a local named Jesse Cook. He knew the roads and the workings of the constabulary in the area, even recommended the time and place for the ambush that was eventually agreed upon by everyone.

In the wagon, Nathan Irons was awakened not by footsteps, but by the needs of his own body. He’d always had a weak bladder. It was a bad trait for a wagon driver, but this was not Nathan’s first calling. Back in Ingervale, his family extracted iron from the iron ore pulled from the iron mine there. In Ingerland, there was no iron being pulled from the ground yet, just gold. So, Nathan took a job with the Miner family, taking ore to Ingerton and Restov for trade. He hoped to learn something of gold refining from the buyers, perhaps build himself a new trade someday soon.

He climbed from his wagon and moved to the side of the wagon opposite the road. A land still newly tamed, few travelled the roads that late at night this far from Ingerton, but he remained modest nonetheless. Nathan smiled at the relief before a blow struck the back of his head, and consciousness left him.

Dorn stood over the body, having just struck with the pommel of his heavy shortsword. Jesse cursed to himself. The driver exiting the wagon was a wrinkle he hadn’t planned on, and one that hopefully wouldn’t cost the driver his life. Dorn reached down to slit the driver’s throat.

“That’s enough,” Jesse said loudly. “Let’s take the wagon and go.”

“Are you nuts?!” Dorn swore, running to the rear of the wagon to check for another occupant. “You’re lucking no one else was in here. They’d be riding off.”

“He didn’t see us,” Jesse pressed. “There’s no need to kill him.”

“He’s right,” Jek said to Dorn. “I signed on as a thief, but I’m not a murderer.”

Dorn looked toward Herren, who looked at Jek and nodded.

“None of you would even be here if…” Dorn began.

Dorn’s complaint was cut short by a yelp from Jek, who fell to his knees as an arrow appeared in his shoulder. Jesse also then shrieked, clutched his belly and fell forward onto his chest. Herren, unharmed, curled into a ball on the ground, clutching the top of his head. Dorn ran for the tree line. An arrow struck the back of his thigh and he went down yelling.

“Surrender!” A deep voice called from the direction of the tree line, and a silhouetted figure approached Dorn from the front.

Dorn threw down his weapon. Herren had helped Jek to stand and they both threw down their weapons. Jesse Cook was motionless on the ground.

Eric Bowman stepped out from behind some large shrubs. With the point of his scimitar, he led Jek and Herren to the opposite side of the wagon from Jesse. David Forester stepped out of the darkness and walked to Dorn, axe in hand, and helped him to his feet.

“Other side of the wagon!” Dave barked. “Same as your friends.”

All three were sat down in a row, backs against the wagon. While David lectured the three of them about their charges, conviction and sentence; Eric went around the wagon to check on Nathan Irons. Jesse had already woken Irons and was giving him water.

“You could take the stage with a performance like that,” Eric said to Jesse quietly.

“Can’t do that,” Jesse replied. “What would you and Dave do without me? By the way, you could have saved this kid a headache if you’d shot a little sooner.”

“Until you all started arguing, I didn’t know which silhouette you were,” Eric explained. “Next time, I’ll just chance it.”

Nathan was alert again, and Jesse helped him to his feet. Eric went back around to where David was with the prisoners.

“What happened?” Nathan asked Jesse.

“Someone tried to rob you,” Jesse answered. “They didn’t take anything. The Marshall has them on the other side of the wagon.”

Dave walked round the wagon, nodded to Jesse, eyed Nathan Irons carefully.

“You okay?” He asked Nathan.

“I think so,” Nathan replied, “just a little embarrassed.”

“The man that hit you,” Dave said, walking toward Nathan with a heavy bullwhip in one hand, “he’s been sentenced to thirty lashes. He’s right on the other side of the wagon. It’s your option if you want to do it yourself.”

Jesse Cook looked at Dave with an arched eyebrow.

“We have to do things a little different out here on the frontier,” Dave explained. “Justice is a little more immediate…and just.”

Nathan nodded slowly, took the bullwhip from Dave, and let it unravel to the ground as he walked to the other side of the wagon.

Two weeks later, the Ingerland Council sat around a large table. David Forester had just finished relaying the story of the foiled heist attempt.

“Thanks for saving Nathan,” Doug said. “He and I go way back. But what happened to the bandits after they got their licks from Nathan?”

“Well, for the fellow that hit him, Nathan only got through about twenty before his arms got tired,” Dave explained. “I finished the rest.”

“I suspect he preferred the first twenty,” Doug said.

“I’d hate to think I’m losing my touch,” Dave replied. “Anyway, Eric’s deputy then rode him up to Restov, where he was from, to see if he was wanted for anything up there.”

“Why not just throw him into stocks in town?” Svetlana asked.

“I didn’t want him seeing me walking around town,” Jesse answered.

“And what happened to the other two?” Doug asked.

“Since they didn’t hurt anyone, and with Dave and Eric’s agreement, I made them a deal,” Jesse replied. “They just have to stay on the straight and narrow and let me know if anyone approaches them with an offer to do otherwise.”

“Can they be trusted?” Svetlana asked.

“Of course not,” Jesse answered. “That’s why people might approach them with criminal offers. But do they fear the ramifications of getting into trouble again or accepting one of those offers without telling me? Definitely.”

“Dare I ask those ramifications?” Jhod asked, a hint of concern in his voice.

“I lash them down to the spine,” Dave said quickly.

“And I toss them in stocks until their knees grow roots,” Eric added.

Doug scratched his beard, still looking doubtful.

“Look,” Jesse said to him, “we’re Ingers, right? Well, those men still have a use to be had in securing this land, even if it’s against their will.”

“Next item,” Doug said loudly, “the smell at the north end of town.”

Interlude 9: Counsel from a ghost?
Gathering dust from the Greenbelt trails... and little else

Four of days from the temple, having visited Nettles Crossing, and now with Oleg’s Trading Post visible in the distance; Doug and Brian rode in silence at a brisk pace.

“You know, I’m just going to be the one to say it,” Doug burst out suddenly.

“Say it,” Brian insisted.

“This was a wasted journey,” Doug said.

“Yes, it was, but we wouldn’t know that if we hadn’t gone,” Brian explained.

“Well, I can’t argue with that,” Doug agreed. “We can still detour to the Tiger Lord mound.”

“Do you really think we’ll find anything more than we found the first time?” Brian asked.

“Nope, and I don’t relish the idea of grave robbing,” Doug added. “Still, ‘nothing’ would be about the same as we learned from that days-long journey to Nettles Crossing.”

“There it is,” Brian responded. “Okay, I admit, that one’s on me. I thought it was worth a shot, thought he might actually answer a question…since we’re trying to bring him the Stag Lord’s body, exactly the thing he wants.”

“Well, he’s a ghost. What can we expect?” Doug asked rhetorically.

“I thought you didn’t believe in ghosts,” Brian said.

“I didn’t,” Doug said, “until I saw one come out of the water and talk to me. I’m skeptical, not in denial.”

Hours later, Doug was stabling the horses from their journey. Brian was off picking them both up something hot and fresh to eat. As Doug exited the stable, he bumped into Brian at the doorway. Brian was holding two mugs and two plates of stew stacked atop one another. Doug took a mug and plate.

“I talked to Oleg while I was scaring this up…about Nettles Crossing,” Brian said with some excitement. “A man named Davik Nettles used to run it until he and it were burned to ash. Rumor had it that he’d defied the Stag Lord. Oleg even said that Nettles used to visit the post from time to time and he travelled with three noisy hounds.”

“I don’t see how this helps us,” Doug replied.

“I…don’t either,” Brian said, “but at least it answers some questions.”

“So, not only did we learn nothing helpful in this trip; but also, the only truly interesting information we could have gotten by just staying put and asking Oleg,” Doug declared.

“You’re father once told me that a destination is only half as important as the journey,” Brian said.

“My father would not have said that,” Doug replied.

“You’re right,” Brian admitted. “I gave it a shot. Let’s eat.”

Interlude 8: Counsel from a Priest
The shepherd and smith seek wisdom of Jhod

Two days from Oleg’s Brian Shepherd and Doug Smith arrive at the Temple of the Elk. As they neared the temple, Jhod could be seen chopping firewood next to the temple’s entrance.

“Jhod!” Brian called out.

Jhod waved back and settled his axe hard into an uncut stump. Then he dusted his hands on his shirt as he approached them.

“To what do I owe the pleasure?” Jhod asked.

“We’re seeking counsel from a priest of Erastil,” Brian answered.

“Well then, you’re in the right place,” Jhod replied with a smile. “Please, rest yourselves. Sit down next to Erastil’s soothing waters.”

They did sit, Doug making a bit of a ruckus as his armor-burdened frame hit the ground. He pulled open a large sack he’d had knotted around his belt. From inside, he pulled a small package wrapped in burlap and a small keg.

“We brought you some of Svetlana’s breakfast biscuits and some ale, in case you’ve missed it,” Doug said, handing him both items.

Jhod laughed. “I’ve never considered myself a big drinker, but it will be nice to know it’s here should the urge strike me,” he said. “Thank you both. I’m afraid I have very little to offer in return, but you said you were in need of counsel.”

“Yes,” Brian said, “and that will more than repay us. We have been given a charge to dispatch the Stag Lord, who appears to orchestrate much of the banditry in this region.”

“Oh my,” Jhod said with concern. “Yes, I’ve heard of him. I…I mean I have the highest confidence in your success, of course.”

“Of course,” Doug added flatly.

“How could I possibly help you with such a task?” Jhod asked.

“We have scant information about the Stag Lord, but what we do have seems to point toward a connection between Erastil and the Stag Lord. The descriptions we’ve received of him have all mentioned him having a large set of antlers, much like those etched up there,” Brian said, gesturing toward the large carved antlers that adorned the temple.

“Hm, yes, I see your point. It is a fair question, but I fear my answer will not be much help. Erastil is a god of farming, hunting, commerce, and family. He would not willingly condone such activities as banditry and murder. If there is a connection between Erastil and the Stag Lord, it is a corrupt relationship.”

“Are there any weaknesses or enemies of Erastil?” Doug inquired. “Or are there any weaknesses of his enemies? We’re trying to find anything that might translate to a practical advantage for us in a fight.”

“I’m sorry,” Jhod replied, shaking his head. “Nothing comes to mind that would have any application you could exploit. This Stag Lord is already committing the most grave attacks on Erastil’s ideology.”

“Hmm,” Brian pondered, rubbing two fingers around the tip of his left tusk. “Could we ask you some more general questions, nothing about Erastil particularly?”

“Of course,” Jhod nodded.

“Have you heard of Nettles Crossing?” Brian asked.

“No,” Jhod answered. “Forgive me, but my dreams drew me to this region and I am not yet familiar with all within it.”

“Well, maybe you can still help,” Brian explained. “It appears to be haunted. A spirit there demands the body of the Stag Lord.”

“Ah, well, it is not uncommon for spirits to cling to this world in order to seek revenge for some past transgression,” Jhod explained.

“Would such a spirit be chained to a particular place?” Brian inquired further.

“That is typical, yes,” Jhod replied. “They will haunt the location the event occurred or where their body lies, if they were never put to rest properly. You might talk to Oleg about the particulars of Nettles Crossing. He’s lived in the area many years.”

“Of course,” Brian responded. “We should have thought of doing that before we left.”

“Since we’re here,” Doug interjected, “Do you have time for a few more questions?”

“Please don’t hesitate, my friend,” Jhod replied.

“Thank you, father,” Doug responded. “Have you had an opportunity to examine the statue we told you about last month?”

“I have not,” Jhod said apologetically. “I’ve just had so much to do cleaning up around here, but I hope to soon. From your description, I believe it is a statue to Erastil. I would have to meditate at the location for some time to be certain. The Greenbelt was first settled hundreds of years ago, so it is not unreasonable that it might be a remnant of some bygone civilization for the region.”

“I understand,” Doug replied. “We also happened upon a small burial mound to the northwest. Brian believes it dates back to the Tiger Lords of long ago. Is there any chance that it has anything to do with Erastil…and by extension any corrupt relationship with the Stag Lord?”

“Oh, I highly doubt it,” Jhod answered. “The Tiger Lords are named after tigers that used to live in this region. I have never heard that they have any relation to Erastil.”

“Thank you again, and just one last thing,” Doug said. “We ran across a starving warg very close to Oleg’s; plus our horses were attacked by wolves on another occasion, and we ran across quite a lot of wolf tracks down south. Is it possible this has anything to do with the Stag Lord?”

“Well, now this is interesting,” Jhod replied. “Wargs are no strangers to this land; so, by itself, your encounter may not be significant. However, if this Stag Lord does indeed have some sort of corrupt relationship with Erastil, it’s possible that he has somehow bent these beasts to his will.”

“Great,” Doug replied flatly.

“Jhod, thank you again,” Brian said. “We would stay, but we can probably still get in a half-day’s ride and we mean to make it to Nettles Crossing on this journey.”

“Of course,” Jhod replied. “I understand. I wish you both a safe journey, and remember that I am here should you need any injuries dealt with.”

Interlude 7: Counsel from a Mercenary
The shepherd and smith strategize

Brian washed his plate and cup, his belly full from a dinner of ham hock and sweet potatoes. Doug and Dave were eating on the other side of the fort with Kestin and his men. Doug stood up, nodding to Kestin in understanding. Dave remained seated, talking with his hands in debate. Doug approached Brian with raised eyebrows.

“Trouble with Kestin?” Brian asked.

“No,” Doug replied, “just having my assumptions shattered. We wanted to talk to them about an assault on the Stag Lord. When we heard about Falgrim Sneeg being at his keep, I just assumed Kestin would be onboard with helping us in the assault.”

“They don’t want to help?” Brian asked.

“They want to,” Doug explained. “They can’t. Kestin’s concerned that while we’re there, or if we fail, that the Stag Lord will be back to Oleg’s, and none too friendly.”

“That is true,” Brian admitted.

“It is,” Doug agreed. “That’s why I’m not even arguing the point any longer. They’re guards not hunters. They’re priority is to protect this outpost, ours is to take down a bandit lord. They still want Falgrim Sneeg, obviously. I think we could probably talk Kestin into sending at least one of his men with us, but after his explanation of why they want to stay, he’s convinced me that it’s best that they all stay here and keep Oleg’s safe.”

“What’s Dave over there doing?” Brian asked.

“He’s still trying to convince Kestin,” Doug answered, “but I’m pretty confident he’s not going to make much progress. Kestin’s pretty set. I don’t blame him. Orders are orders. Going with us is a risk.”

“So, without Kestin’s unit, where does that leave us?” Brian asked rhetorically. “We’re outnumbered, in unfamiliar territory, and fighting a mysterious enemy with possible god-like powers.”

“You forgot about the potentially impenetrable fortress,” Doug added.

“How could I forget?” Brian agreed. “A lot of unknowns.”

“Any ideas on how to make some of those ‘knowns’?” Doug asked.

“Maybe we can talk to Jhod at the temple to Erastil in the forest. That temple seemed too close to the description of the Stag Lord to be complete coincidence. Maybe he even knows something about that haunt at Nettles Crossing. I have an idea how that might help us against the Stag Lord.”

“Alright,” Doug nodded. “Why don’t we take off after breakfast tomorrow and ride with some haste. I don’t think I have anything else to add to any plans of attack just yet. My last idea wasn’t too well received.”

“You have to admit…” Brian began.

“Okay. Let’s just drop it,” Doug interrupted. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

Interlude 6: A Useful Bandit
A formerly repentant bandit learns how far Ingers go to get the job done

Douglas Smith sat on a stump just outside Oleg’s Trading Post. It was good weather, sunny with a cool breeze from the north. He was studying the cold-forged iron longsword he’d acquired in the forest. He’d smithed his whole life, and while he’d smithed many small and crude items without the softening of heat, he’d never seen anything with such craftsmanship forged from such a process. He couldn’t even imagine the quality of tools that would be necessary.

He stood and swept the blade through the air a number of times, practicing the moves taught to him by visiting Swordlords in barter as he’d grown up. Though he’d swung a sword less often than a hammer, he’d incorporated many of their techniques into his fighting with his hammer; and so far, that training had served him well. He swung overhead once then a sharp forward thrust and a spin to his left.

“I think you got him!” He heard a voice yell from his side.

He turned to see Eric Bowman riding his horse slowly toward him. A rope was wrapped around the horn of his saddle, the other end tied to the bound hands of a man who walked behind him.

“I thought you were after pheasant!” Doug called back, sheathing his sword. “Who’s this?!”

Eric rode closer before answering. “You don’t recognize him?” He asked.

Doug looked at the man more closely, until realization flashed in his eyes. “Yes,” he answered finally. “He’s one of the bandits we let go.”

“We told you not to come back,” Doug said, swaggering closer to the man. “Weren’t we clear?”

The man didn’t answer.

“What should we do with him?” Eric asked.

“I’ll take him from you,” Doug said, and Eric handed him the end of the rope from his saddle horn. “Everyone else is out. Was he armed?”

“This.” Eric said, pulling a short sword from his saddle bag and handing it to Doug. “You want me to help you watch him or get him secured until the others get back?”

“You do what you need to,” Doug replied. “I have him.”

“I’ll be back soon,” Eric said. “We need to finish up that plan.”

“I know,” Doug agreed. “Happy hunting.”

Eric nodded then turned his horse and trotted away.

“Well, I guess you’re my company for awhile,” Doug said to the prisoner. “Come on inside.”

The man glared at him a moment, but Doug just walked forward with the rope, strong enough to tug the man along easily. He took him to a back corner of the stable, tied his rope to a beam and pushed him down to sit on a woodpile.

“Get comfortable. I suppose I can wait to deal with you until the others get back,” Doug said, looking around for something to sit on.

The man rolled his eyes and looked around.

“Sorry if I’m boring you,” Doug replied in mock apology. “Don’t blame me. You’re the one that decided to come back.”

The man almost spoke, but held his tongue.

“What? Almost an answer?” Doug added. “Now you’ve made me more curious than patient. Why did you come back? Going back to the Stag Lord? That’d be new. Seems like most of you have been itching to get away from him. You hoping for a promotion, get your old boss’s job?”

No response.

“You might want to consider loosening that tongue,” Doug told him. “I’m a patient man, but not all of my allies can say the same.”

“I’m going to save us both some time,” the man suddenly spat out. “I have nothing to say to any of you, and no threat you make will change that.”

Doug studied that man’s face and demeanor. It didn’t seem to be bluster. The man was truly not concerned for his situation. Doug scratched his beard and began pacing slowly around the prison. He took a deep breath before speaking again.

“You know what? I believe you,” Doug said, nodding. “I do. You don’t seem a bit concerned for your safety. So, I’ll forego any threats. The question is ‘why’? Why aren’t you scared? I don’t remember you being this brave the first time around. Is this a trap? Possible, but I don’t think so. So, what’s changed in you? What exactly have you been doing the last few months?”

The man cocked his head to glare again as Doug circled round his left side.

“Come on,” Doug encouraged. “Certainly no harm in answering that is there? Where did you go after we kicked you out of the area? East? West? North? To Restov?”

“Ingervale,” the man said mockingly.

Doug stopped a moment then continued pacing again. “Ingervale?” He asked rhetorically. “I don’t think so. Still, the fact you bring it up is telling. It’s Restov. That’s where you’ve been. You’ve been asking about us, haven’t you?”

The man gave a dirty smile, though more to himself.

“I think I see where this is going,” Doug said. “What did you learn? Did you learn that we’re not some mercenary or military expedition? That’s true. Did you learn that we’re just peasants, tradesmen; settlers looking for land? That’s true too.”

They made solid eye contact, which Doug took as an acknowledgment that they were in agreement.

“Yes, it’s all true,” Doug nodded, pacing a circle a little faster. “But perhaps you should have stayed a little longer, asked some more questions.”

This time, the man had a questioning look in his stare, a crack in his confidence.

“You see, there’s only one thing that matters to an Inger, getting a job done,” Doug said, slapping a post for emphasis. “That’s why we’re here, you know. We’re being kicked out of our home in the current Ingervale. The six of us have been given the job of carving out this section of the Greenbelt for Ingervale to settle again, and we intend to get that job done. Do you understand how this changes your situation?”

The man’s brow sloped, showing further concern, understanding only slowly creeping in.

“Let me spell it out for you,” Doug said, by now walking at a fair pace, circling the prisoner. “When we arrived, we needed a safe place to base our operation, a place for shelter and food. That was Oleg’s. You and your lot, however, were plaguing Oleg. So, we had to put a stop to that…which we did. We then let the survivors go. Did you not think we had a purpose for that as well, a means to our end? We wanted you to carry the word that this area was protected.”

Finally, his face showed some understanding…and fear. He whipped his head hard to the right to watch Doug’s movements.

“Now,” Doug continued, “it’s a different situation. You have an impression of us, that we’re soft…and that is an impression that we can’t have spread around the land.”

“I…I understand now,” the man said, calming himself. “I’ve made my mistake and I won’t make it again.”

“You certainly won’t,” Doug replied quickly.

The man twisted his body in a sudden contortion to free himself.

“You have one last chance,” Doug said loudly. “Tell me all you know about the Stag Lord. We know of the monthly gatherings and the code words and the amulets. Tell us something else.”

“I can’t,” the man replied, struggling with his own words. “I will carry your message, but I don’t know more about him than you already seem to know. You have to believe me!”

“I do,” Doug replied quietly.

The man’s own shortsword then entered his back and pierced his heart. Death was almost instantaneous. The scream was short. He slumped forward. Doug untied the rope from the post and dragged the body out of the stable. Kestin was just outside the doors.

“I heard a yell,” Kestin said.

“It was him, not me,” Doug replied. “I’m going to ride out and string him up alongside the South Rostland Road, right from that tree at the crossroads…a little warning.”

“So, he’ll still have a use, eh?” Kestin nodded.

“It was the only use he had left,” Doug said, and boosted body up onto a horse.

Waiting in Restov
Receive charter to explore the Greenbelt

Calistril 16th-23rd 4710 AR (Winter)

Spend a week in Restov waiting for an audience with Lord Mayor Ioseph Sellemius. He grants each of the Inger volunteers a charter to create a detailed map of the Greenbelt in anticipation of settling the wilderness. Additional rewards will be granted for reducing the bandit activity in the region.

The party is housed in the Swaddled Otter Inn. The Restov residents seem more concerned with appearances and posturing than hard work (from the Inger perspective). The Sword Lords have a proud history of sword mastery and chafe under their Brevic rulers.

Interlude 5: Further Down the Road
The journey to Restov gets tense

It had been a difficult journey, just over two weeks on the road. The Inger expedition began to set up what they hoped to be their last site before finally reaching Restov.

“I don’t suppose we have any meat for tonight’s supper,” Dave grumbled.
“You’re the hunter. You tell me,” Jesse snapped back. Bring me a bird or rabbit and I’ll cook it up. Otherwise, we eat what we have…which isn’t much.”
“I think I chipped a tooth on the flatbread last night,” Eric complained.
“We’re almost to Restov,” Doug said, throwing down a large pile of wood. “I’ve about had my limit of wandering in cold snow trying to find dry wood.”
“Well, you haven’t been good for much else so far,” Jesse commented.
“Okay, I think we’re all a bit tired,” Brian said.
“Maybe it’s something we ate,” Dave replied, “or won’t be eating.”
“If you think you can do better, you’re welcome to try,” Jesse said, walking away from the fire.
“The journey’s been hard on everyone,” Brian stated.
“Not as hard as Jesse’s flatbread lately!” Eric said loudly. “Of course you’re not complaining. Those tusks can probably bite through anything.”
“What would we have done on this trip if we hadn’t had our shepherd?” Jason added. “Pardon me, not that the blacksmith hasn’t been just irreplaceable, what with his specialized ability to carry wood.”
“That’s a fair sight better than your contribution of drinking for the first week. You didn’t even tell anyone you’d had Eric carrying those kegs on his horse,” Doug snapped back.
“They were small kegs,” Jason said, “and Eric knew.”
“You told me those were for trade along the road,” Eric said. “I didn’t know you’d been drinking off of them.”
“Well, we haven’t run into but one trading caravan,” Jason complained, “and they didn’t part with but a cup full of flour. So, what does it matter?”
“If we’re to be guarding one another’s backs in the weeks to come, it matters. We’ll need trust, and trust comes from honesty,” Dave lectured.
“Well, honestly, if we’re Inger’s last hope,” Jesse said, walking back to the fire, “Inger’s finished.”
“I don’t think we have to reach that conclusion yet,” Brian replied, “but I agree that we have so far lacked the leadership on this expedition that could…”
“What the hell does that mean?!” Dave interrupted. “We’re nearly to Restov. We’ve skirted trouble along the way. We’re all here and a day away. I’m the guide, and I’ve done my job quite well as I see it.”
“Is that really all you fancy yourself?” Brian asked.
“You have somewhat portrayed yourself as the man in charge since we left,” Doug added.
“That’s true,” Jason agreed.
“I was only trying to keep us safe on a dangerous journey,” Dave said with some defiance..
“But are you best suited for that?” Eric inquired. “Some of us have seen a great deal of combat, beyond just wolves and boar.”
“I don’t recall this being described as a military expedition,” Brian retorted.
“It’s surprising that you recall anything about this expedition, given that you spend so little time in town with the rest of us,” Jason said dismissively.
“Don’t mind him, Brian.” Jesse said. “He’s grouchy because he’s drying out for the first time in the last year.”
“Speaking of dry,” Eric began, “the flatbread…”
“Good gods!” Doug yelled. “This arguing is getting us nowhere, and I’m as guilty of it as anyone else. May I offer a truce for all of us?”

Everyone nodded, though tentatively.

“Tomorrow we’re in Restov. Can we just let all of these arguments go until we get there?” Douglas suggested. “We’re all hungry, no fault of Jesse, and we’re all exhausted from a two-week winter trek. So, until we get to Restov; Dave will direct us on our journey, Jesse will cook, and I’ll carry the wood. It’s gotten us this far. Once we’re at Restov, all of that can drop away. We don’t know how long we’ll be there before we get our charter from the mayor. It could take days. That gives us plenty of time to have discussions on good nights’ sleep and with full bellies, and all of our concerns can be discussed again. Some of you are new to Ingervale, others longer. I’ve lived there my whole life. But we’re all Ingers. We’ve been given a job to do. By damned, we’re going to finish that job. Agreed?”

Everyone nodded again, but without pause or doubt.

Interlude 4: On the Road
Getting to know one another

It was ten hours into their journey, the sun getting lower in the sky. Passing alongside a sparse wooded area was Dave Forrester, Brian Shepherd, Doug Smith, Jason Brewer, and Jesse Cook; in that order. From the south, Eric Bowman came galloping up the path toward them. He drew to a halt in front of Dave and shook his head.

“Alright, who needs the rest?!” Dave called to those behind him.

No one answered, either because they didn’t or because they didn’t want to admit it.

“We’re camping here,” he said, veering off toward a clearing near some oaks to the right of the path.
“Thank gods,” Jesse Cook said. “Why did you ask if you were going to stop anyway?”
“I just wanted to know for next time, in case we’re ever in a fix where we really need to press on, who’ll be the one slowing us down,” Dave explained as he walked.
“Give Jesse a break, Dave. He has to bear the weight of all those lonely hearts he left behind,” Doug joked.
“For coming to my defense,” Jesse said, “I’ll keep away from your younger sister.”
“Really?” Doug asked hopefully.
“No,” Jesse admitted.
“Jesse!” Eric called, riding up to him.

He threw a heavy wild turkey at his feet. It had a broken arrow jutting from its breast.

“I saw it sitting in a tree when I rode up ahead,” Eric explained. “They’re dumb as rocks. I didn’t even need to dismount. The arrow broke in the fall.”
“Perfect,” Jesse said, picking it up. “They’re greasy. I’ll use it for stew.”

Everyone found a place for their gear. In Inger fashion, they all found their jobs and got to work on them. Jesse and Brian foraged for fixings for Jesse’s stew. Dave built a lean-to and Eric got the fire pit started. Doug and Jason collected enough firewood to last what would be a cold night.
The sun was setting as dinner was scooped into each person’s tin bowl or wooden plate.

“Are these carrots?” Dave asked, nearing the end of his plate.
“Yup. Brought some from Inger,” Jesse answered. “They won’t last but a few days, so I figured we’d best use ‘em now.”
“What’s this on the flat bread?” Doug asked, biting off a piece with a snap.
“Brian found some marionberries,” Jesse replied. “I just smashed them into a poor man’s jam.”
“I’ve never eaten this well on the road,” Eric said.
“Half of that bird you gave me was fat and gristle,” Jesse explained. “Tasty, but you’ll have the trots later if you don’t eat some bread with it.”
“On that note,” Jason interrupted, “let’s bring the mood up a bit.”

He leaned to the side and picked up a small bottle with a stopper.

“This is something I call Cailean’s Bite,” he said, holding it up and removing the stopper.

He took a good swig, made an ‘ahhh’ sound, and then smiled wide. He passed it to Doug. Doug sniffed it and winced. Then he shrugged and tossed back a swig. He doubled forward coughing almost as soon as it hit the back of his throat, Jesse’s quick hand catching Doug’s dinner bowl at the last moment. The fit ended after another half dozen coughs and two deep breaths.

“Smooth, right?” Jason said.
“Oh, yes. It’s like a warm mint tea on a spring morning,” Doug said with a raspy voice, before passing the bottle to Jesse.

The pattern continued around the fire; a drink, a suppressed coughing fit, pass it on. Eric was the last victim, and the last to recover.

“How much of this do you have?” Eric said, handing the bottle back to Jason.
“Just this,” Jason answered. “It’s a devil to make.”
“And to drink,” Dave added.
Jason took another swig and smiled again.
“Another round?” He asked, offering it to Doug again.

It made another two and one-half orbits before it was empty. The last of the stew was eaten and then everyone began unrolling their beds strategically around the fire.

“We’ll need to start getting in the habit of keeping someone on night watch at all times,” Dave announced. “We’ll have to do it in Rostland, and if we get in the habit now, there’ll be less chance of anyone dozing off at the wrong time later. Five two-hour shifts, we can take turns on who gets to sleep all the way through, but you have to start breakfast. I’ll take first watch.”
“I’ll take the last watch,” Eric volunteered quickly.
“Why do I get the feeling the shifts in the middle are the least desirable?” Doug asked. “I’ll take the second.”
“I’ll do the next,” Brian said.
Jesse looked over at Jason, who was either already asleep or was pretending to be.
“Well….I guess I’m number four,” Jesse said, shrugging.


I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.