Vulpes di Theseus

A quiet Human man of 23 years, standing 6’ tall and weighing 16 stone.

Description:

Vulpes di Theseus
Lawful Good Rostlander Fighter
Human 19 years old 6’ tall 195 lbs
No religion as yet, Level 11
Platinum Blond Hair, Green Eyes
Str 18 Fort 6(Base=3, Con=2)
Dex 13 Reflex 2(Base=1Dex=1)
Con 14 Will 1 (Base=1)
Int 13
Wis 10
Cha 10
AC 24 (MW Full Plate=9, MW Heavy Steel Shield=2, Dex=1, Dodge=1, Shield Focus=1)
CMB 8 (Base Attack Bonus=5, Str=3)
CMD 19 (Base Attack Bonus=5, Str=3, Dex=1)
HP=69
Skills
Knowledge(Nature) 8(Int=1, Ranks=4,Class Skill)
Intimidate 8(Ranks=5, Class Skill)
Ride 6(Dex=1, Ranks=2, Class Skill)
Climb 7(Str=3, Ranks=1, Class)
Survival 8(Ranks=4, Class Skill, 1 trait)
Swim 7(Str=3, Ranks =1, Class Skill)
Knowledge (History) 2(Int=1,Ranks=1)
Knwledge (Engineering) 5 (Int=1, Ranks=1, Class Skill)
Linguistics 2 (Int=1, Ranks=1) Taldane, Giant, and Celestial
Feats: Dodge, Toughness, Exotic Weapon (Bastard Sword), Shield Focus, Weapon Specialization, (Bastard Sword), Power Attack, Combat Reflexes

Bio:

The old knight closed the rustic cabin door and turned to face his visitors. An unlikely pair, this half-orc and half-elf. They were well armed and well-traveled, to be sure. They’d come a long way for their information. This would be a change of pace, if nothing else.

“Perhaps it were best if you explained your interest in my squire,” he began. “Then I could get to the point that brought you all this way without too much beating around the bush.”
The half-elf nodded. The half-orc glared. That was fine. In the course of his life Sir Dougal Black had been glared at many times and it had never hurt. Well, except for that one time.

“Sir, we mean your squire no harm at all. The Lord Mayor did not deem it necessary to tell us the reason for his inquiry, only that we were to come to the Valley of Fire and seek out all that could be learned of the squire of Sir Dougal Black, if such a boy existed.” The half-elf liked to talk with his hands. An annoying trait of those whose words lacked adequate substance of their own, in the old knight’s opinion.

The half-orc glared some more. Perhaps he had something in his eye.

“The boy is man enough, these days.” Dougal hung a kettle of water over the hearth and tossed another log on the fire. “He’s well earned the right to be spoken of as such.” He shuffled over to a leather wrapped armchair and eased his bones down into it. He gestured the visitors to the wooden stools by the table. “I’ll allow, though, he was a scrawny whelp when he first came to me.” Dougal’s eyes twinkled as they gazed back across the years.

“Your master has unusual interests, but I suppose work as unusually tedious as his demands unusual diversions.” The visitors waited politely enough while he mused. “All right then: Vulpes. He came to me, oh it must have been a few years ago—long enough for a boy to become a man and a man to become what he was meant to be. Let’s call it eight years, or so. Around here we call it the Year of Late Frost. It was a long winter and we had just gotten another blizzard with summer was due in a week. I’d been retired from official service for only two years at that point and was still enjoying the peace and quiet.” The half-orc snorted. “Most of the folk back home wouldn’t understand it, but there is something to be said for living in freedom where the hunting is actually worth your life and daggers are tools rather than coat racks for your back.”

“Anyhow, Bergelmir’s Brood, one of the old families of frost giants to the north of here, was feeling a little frisky, what with the summer being held at bay. A pair of the younger boys decided to come on down to the Theseus stead for a little sport. Now as far as giants go, they weren’t all that much. About what you would expect from human boys of around fifteen or so winters who’d gotten into the whisky and had girls to impress. Had they been human, there’d have been no problem. As it was, they had just managed to stave in the barn when Rolfgar, the younger of the two, got a barrel of earth tar kicked out the upper window on him and lit ablaze. Now you know what earth tar is like. The stuff will slow-burn for days—even if you bury it in snow. The boys went running back home and might have learned a worthy lesson had not the tar burned out Rolfgar’s eyes.

Old Bergelmir was furious. You could hear his bellowing all up and down the valley. I wager he’d have been less bothered if Rolfgar had managed to die in battle, but as it was, the boy would ever be a burden and a disgrace to the clan. The old man dragged the whole clan out to come watch Rolfgar make it right. As you might guess, the whole homestead was destroyed and the entire family and all the hands were slaughtered. Vulpes, who had been out with the herd, was all that survived.

Well, old Bergelmir moved the clan on. See, to his mind all the scores were settled. Rolfgar had managed to get himself killed in battle and those responsible had been crushed. He moved on with his life at that point.

Young Vulpes, on the other hand, had no clan to move off with. He had a small fortune in cattle but no home to take him. Back in those days I hadn’t fully decided to stick around and the town wanted me to help organize their militia. The council decided it was a perfect fit for me to take the boy as a squire and the cattle as a ward-price. They sealed the deal by building me this little house. So I stayed.”

The kettle was boiling. Sir Dougal hauled himself to his feet and gingerly pulled on an old gauntlet to protect his hand. The visitors waited in silence while he poured the water into several worn tin mugs and carefully measured crumbled tea leaves into each mug. That bit of hospitality done, the old man refilled the kettle with snow from outside then returned to his chair.

“Vulpes was a precocious boy.” The knight began again without preamble. “He always wanted to know why I wanted him to do something. That is not a good trait in a soldier, but it serves knights well.” Old Dougal’s eyes were drawn back to the orc’s changing expression. “No, he didn’t question my right to give the order; he wanted to know why it was given in order to better understand how it was to be executed.”

A faint smile began to play around the old man’s eyes.

“There is not much to wonder about if I say draw the water and stack the wood, you might think. You’d be wrong. Drawing water for horses is one thing, and drawing water for cooking is another. Stacking wood for the winter means near the door, while stacking wood for the smokehouse is another chore entirely. Moreover, the lad understood he would not be in my house forever, so he had to come to understand why I wanted things done so he could better apply those lessons in his own life.”

The elf cleared his throat. “I understand what you mean about simple lessons, sir, but I think there is more to it than what you are saying.”

“Harumph,” Black shrugged. “Not so much as you might think. Big things like this cabin are made of little things like those stones or those logs. Vulpes was learning to think. Asking why is not the same as not understanding. Knowing that something needs to be done is not the same as knowing why someone else wants it done.” He turned and looked toward the east wall of the house, the only one without a window. The lines in his face grew deeper.

“There are things in this world that exist because someone made a choice that seemed right to them at the time. Some of those things are more horrible than words can express. They are worse than the sum of all their dark and evil parts. Your patron may or may not understand, but those who live their lives overlooking the valley of Fire, hearing the cries of the damned whispered on the wind every night, well, they understand that there are consequences for the choices we make. They understand that decisions made in the thick of things need to be made by clear heads and the reasons for a decision matter as much as the decision itself.”

The knight shook himself and returned to face his guests. “Most of us avoid the clearings where the lack of trees gives unblocked views of the Valley. Vulpes seeks them out. He’d spend hours looking into the valley. He’d always come back with the same question. If those men who fell in battle to a superior foe were damned, why not his family? What difference is there between the flames of dragons and ambitious warlords and the capricious whims of powerful children and arrogant fathers? This is a hard place to live, caught as we are between the death in the valley and the migratory paths of nomadic giants, ever mindful of long and harsh winters. The people here depend on one another and on Erastil for survival. Yet Vulpes would never embrace Erastil, or any god. He’d never say why, but after asking, I would always find him soon after at his family’s homestead looking out over the Valley.”

“So you’re saying Vulpes doesn’t believe in anything now—that he rejects the gods because of what happened to his family?” The half-orc surprised Black—he’d not thought the younger man interested in the conversation.

“No, Vulpes believes in the gods, I think he just doesn’t trust them. He’s more interested in how life is lived than how death is met. He cares about his community more than the god of community. He’ll not pray for victory, he’ll work to make it happen. If the gods favor his actions, so much the better, but he refuses to let them dictate his life since he doesn’t think they can be relied upon."

“You sound like you approve.”

“It’s not my place to approve or not approve. Like I said, he’s man enough to have his own thoughts. If any of the gods want to change his mind, they certainly are more than able and have more free time than I.”

The half-elf gave his companion a thoughtful, though clearly firm shake of the head. The half-orc glared at him, but the steady gaze didn’t waver. There’s something to all that, but it was beyond Dougal to ken what it might be. Maybe that was the fellow’s natural expression. Still holding his companion’s eyes, the half-elf asked, “How did your neighbors respond to Vulpes’ ideas?”

Dougal took a slow sip from his tea before answering. “They didn’t.”

Both guests turned their gazes back to the old man. “They didn’t know?”

Black chuckled. “See, this is why I left the city. Everyone is so crowded there a man has no room for his own thoughts. You folk worry about what someone else is thinking. Why? I’ll say it again; Vulpes is man enough to have his own thoughts. Up here we concern ourselves only with what a man does. Vulpes has ever been a courteous lad, a hard worker, and a good squire. He minded his chores, he helped his neighbors, and he kept up his practice. He learned well the use of a sword and shield. He learned better still when and why to use them. He loved a lass that was taken by the Jotunn. He was loved by another that fled them into the Valley. Her ghost still calls for him in winter to come be with her in the fire. He’s helped to raise barns, track lost cattle, and to deliver a baby. He is skilled on the hunt and steady on the line. Many here owe their lives, livelihoods, and homes to him. Why would they want to rob such a man of the privacy of his own thoughts?”

“It matters,” groused the half-orc.

“Never said it didn’t”.

“You said…”

“I said neighbors don’t care what happens between a man’s ears. I never said what happens there doesn’t matter, only that its his own business.”

“You make me question your own sincerity. You said earlier the reasons matter as much as deeds.”
“And you make me question your patron’s business with my squire’s soul. Which of us do you suppose will be satisfied sooner, Inquisitor?”

The half-elf stood and walked over to the half-orc’s side. “I apologize, Sir Dougal. We meant no offense. My companion here has found great purpose and comfort in his faith recently and it pains him to think…”

“I can speak for myself,” the half-orc growled.

“You’re not doing a good job of it then, and we were not sent here to insult Sir Dougal in his own house! You know full well the reason he’s retired and it has nothing to do with loyalty or honor or our master or our god.”

Black Dougal chuckled again. “Peace, gentlemen. Peace. I am not the man I was thirty years ago when I was asked to serve as Champion of the Realm, or even twenty years ago when I led men to war. There is enough of that man still in me to protect this village, but the social graces of the cities always left me feeling chilled even then. Let’s leave the subject of my squire’s lack of faith with him, where it rightly resides. If you have further questions about it you can take them up with him.”

The half-elf nodded his thanks and the half-orc leaned back in his seat and touched his forehead to acknowledge the old knight’s point. When they were all settled again and the tea refreshed, the half-elf gingerly leveled a new question. “You said Vulpes would stare into the Valley while everyone else around here avoids it. Why do you suppose that is?”

Sir Dougal took a breath and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I suppose for most of us here that Valley represents all the horror of death. Most of us avoid what we fear. He’s just the opposite. Vulpes, I think was mapping it. Based on his questions and whatnot, I’d guess he was trying to understand it. Someday, I would not be surprised to see him come back with a plan to cleanse the place—to redeem it or at least lay to rest those tortured souls."
Both visitors looked shocked. “H-how?”

“Can’t say I have any idea. You asked what I thought he was doing. That is what I think he has been thinking on. His thoughts are his own. When he decides to share them with me, I suppose I’ll know. Since he hasn’t, my guess is he’s not yet figured out how he wants to do it.”
“If you think he might know how to cleanse the valley…”

“Again, I didn’t say that. I said that is what I think he was brooding on. He’s a bright one and I learned that what he sets his mind to generally happens how he wants it to. He’s still young and he’s a lot of experience yet to earn, but I’ll wager you he’s still brooding on it. That doesn’t mean he has a plan or that he would share it with me even if he did.”
“What is he like, aside from clever and determined?”

“Hmmm, thoughtful would be the best word. He’s seen anger and rage his whole life, so he’s bored of it. No, he’s resigned to it; it doesn’t impress him. Never mind the wrath of giants, which is terrible enough to behold, we live here at the edge of hell and can bear witness to the wrath from beyond the Shade of Death. Wrath comes from impotence and it is has a short trip home. He said that to me once. He’d rather see an angry foe than a furious ally. Hehe, I suppose it will be interesting the first time he faces a barbarian in personal combat. Just the same, there is a kernel of truth to it if you think in terms of armies. A calm general will always destroy an equally powerful but enraged general.”

The two visitors exchanged a quick glance.

“What it all adds up to is Vulpes is quiet and methodical. He doesn’t rely on luck any more than he trusts the gods. He prefers to make his own luck. He’s certainly not as brilliant as some of the mages I have met in my time, but he’s at least as methodical and probably more persistent. He’ll consider a thing from all sides and then make his decision when he has to rather than desperately leaping to conclusions without merit. Truth be told, I’d say he generally encourages his enemies to act hastily.”

“So no fierce battle cries or passionate challenges, then.”

“Not, Vulpes doesn’t do that. He’d laugh at anyone who did. He’s more likely to tell you exactly what he’s going to do to you in a cold, calm sort of way. Oh, he’ll accept an honorable challenge—no way I’d have let him misunderstand the importance of honor. Though if he thinks someone is especially dim, he’ll sometimes threaten to eat them alive.”

The half-orc barked a short laugh, glanced at the half-elf, and sobered. “Seriously?”

“He gets it from the giants, you see. And I suppose from the specters. And the worgs. I won’t bother mentioning the dragons that made this place what it is, though they do occasionally make an appearance. What with the storms and the avalanches, it can even seem like the mountains themselves crave our bones. Everything around here is trying to devour us, that Valley most of all. That’s what he fears. Its what we all fear. So that is what he thinks of when he wants someone else to feel fear. We make preparations to keep ourselves safe and cooperate because that is just common sense. So someone recklessly drawing attention to themselves, harming the community we all rely on, or just being stupid here is just asking to be eaten by something. Vulpes just takes it to the next logical step. The threat itself is an insult.”

The half-orc chuckled. “And I suppose your boy doesn’t care if the man he’s killing understands the insult. Deeds and reasons…”

“I’d say you understood, but you called him a boy again.”

“So you think he is stable—a dependable sort,” the half-elf wasn’t asking.

“Maybe you wouldn’t mind telling me why a bard and an inquisitor came all this way and took all this time to find that out. Rather, why does the Lord Mayor care?”

“In a few minutes, if I may, Sir Dougal.” The half-elf stood and crossed over to the hearth and warmed his hands. “You mentioned several tragedies in Vulpes’ life. You said you think he’s planning to cleanse the Valley but possibly has no plan for that and he wants revenge on an entire clan of frost giants. We’d be very interested in knowing how much this is likely to weigh on his mind.”

The old knight set down his tea and sat up straighter. “I’ve heard these questions before, and it wasn’t the Lord Mayor asking them.”

The half-orc chuckled. “Then you already know why we’re here. So, what do you say then, Champion of the Realm? What’s going on in your boy’s head?”

Dougal Black rose from his chair and crossed the floor to the hearth. The half-elf stepped out of his way. The old knight’s eyes looked through the shield hung over the mantel at campaigns and battles and duels of long ago. The hates and loves, the glories and loss of four decades in service to a crown that no longer wanted him pulled with frozen, dead hands. He’d thought it would hurt less by now.

“The first girl was the bastard of a frost giant sorcerer,” Dougal’s voice cracked, barely more than a whisper. His name is Ymir. Her mother was a human—a slave born to the role. She took the name Brijid and fled the northern peaks. Her daughter, Belinda, was born here. . Belinda and Vulpes were childhood playmates and shared a hatred of Ymir. She for the blood that made her too tall and pale and too like the enemy for the other children to trust and he for the hatred he owed all giants. She was tall and strong as a man by the age of twenty, but she had the heart and mind of a little girl till the normal course of time. She had those ice-blue eyes and dirty blonde hair frost giants are known for. By 22 she was taller than me. She must have been near seven feet tall by 24 and strong as an orc. She was the first maid Vulpes kissed and the only one of the children as gifted with a spear.

Svarog the Dwarf, our master blacksmith, had taken Brijid in when she arrived and Belinda took after his trade—she was big and strong enough to begin almost from the time she could walk. The girl lived largely in every sense of the word. Did you know Frost Giants and Dwarves have the same natural life span? They both reach adulthood around 40. Belinda, being only a half-blood, looked like she was going to take till a little over 30 to get there. Then again, she was already 13 when Vulpes was born. Belinda was 24 years old when Brijid died. Ymir and a band of his kin showed up for the funeral and took Belinda. There were too many for us to fight. They took Belinda and not so much as a twig else but our pride and our hearts. Mostly, we were so glad to have survived that day that only Vulpes had the heart to speak his hate and talk of rescue and vengeance.”

The old knight turned and faced his guests. “Everyone knew of Vulpes friendship with Belinda and his hatred of giants, especially frost giants, from of old. That kind of passion is not unexpected in the young and no one thought ought of it till he ran off with my sword and shield to try to track them. Old Heimdall and I caught up with him 3 days north of here. He was half frozen but still determined. I didn’t have the heart to break more than his legs before dragging him back. He cursed my name and my lineage for a thousand generations in both directions, but he never tried a stunt like that again. After that, his anger was leashed. No more talk of vengeance, no more impetuousness. I’ve never seen a squire devote himself to his duties with such single-minded dedication.”

“You don’t really believe he’s given up on revenge, do you?” Dougal didn’t note which of the men spoke.

“I know three things,” he answered. “It’s damn cold outside, there is death in that valley, and someday, if they aren’t killed by their own kin, Vulpes will spike out Ymir’s and Bergelmir’s heads for the crows.”

“No matter the cost?” it was the half-elf.

“No, that was the lesson he learned. When he went haring off, the town was without Heimdall and I—not to mention himself. A pair of ogres carried off old lady Helga, the weaver, while we were gone. That was when he learned patience. Well, that night and the two months it took him to walk again. No, that was when Vulpes started to be a greater threat to his enemies than he was to himself. Next time he goes for Ymir, he’ll have a plan and he’ll do it right, without leaving his people undefended.”

The half-orc grinned. “You mean he’ll do it like you would.”

“Gods no!” Dougal grimaced. “He’ll do it better. I would have just called the bastard out and killed him. I was a champion, after all. I raised him on stories of General Odin and war, not duels. When Vulpes is done, there’ll be naught but be fear or death in Jottunheim. Either way, they won’t be in any shape to retaliate against us here. He’ll make sure of that or he won’t go.”
“And Belinda?” the half-elf asked.

“Smart money says she’s dead by now. Me, I’m not so sure.”

“Why?”

“The Jotunn clan has been wearing better armor and carrying better weapons of late. They’re all stamped with Svarog’s mark but he’s not gone anywhere.”

“Oh.”

“It gets worse. General Sutr of the Muspell fire giants has been making nice with Ymir. Some of his scouts are also carrying master crafted, Svarog-marked weapons. The Sons of Muspell are well off to the south of us. If I am right, Belinda is not only still alive, but she’s being forced to twist Svarog’s kindness into the very weapons that may kill us all someday. The more dire implication is that the Jotunn are dealing peacefully enough with each other for trade. Without their own rivalries to keep their numbers in check…”

The three men contemplated their tea in silence till the kettle started to whistle. The half-elf took the kettle from the fire and refilled everyone’s cups. “I suppose young Vulpes has good reason beyond simple vengeance to wants Ymir’s head even more than Bergelmir’s, though that may be the difference between a Kodiak’s threat and a grizzly’s.”

“So what of the Valley then,” asked the half-orc. “With all these threats from giants, why sit around staring into the Valley?”

Black grimaced. “That valley defines us. It’s who we are. The richest mineral deposits are closest to the fire. The same dragon-fire that gave the valley its name burned away the earth and revealed all the buried riches of the volcanic peaks we call home. There is a reason Choral the Conqueror led his enemies here to destroy them. What do you think keeps that fire going? Those riches and ghosts of our fathers keep us here. Never mind. That valley is death. Even the Jotunn call it Niflheim—Mist World—for the ghosts that dwell there.”

“I don’t see…” the half-orc started but Sir Dougal kept talking.

“We go down close to the fire to gather those minerals, but never at night and never alone. Lately, we’ve started to dig tunnels because it is just too dangerous to walk across the grounds that close to the flames. The Valley calls and those who stray too close are beguiled in. We bury our dead on the other side of the mountain lest their souls be bewitched and lured into that place. There is nothing any of us fear so much as going into that place. Our children are taught from an birth it is far better to die with a sword in your hand than to risk damnation in that place. The Jotunn have the same tradition.”

“Why live so close to it then,” pressed the half-orc. “Not even mithril and diamonds are worth living at the gates of Hell.”

“When Choral the Conqueror destroyed the Aldori Swordlords’ last great army three hundred years ago, he didn’t kill the reserves, the priests, cooks, whores, and support elements that followed behind the army. He wanted a witness to his power. The Rustics are descended from those that witnessed the destruction on that day. The village is set on the place where their ancestors waited and watched the horror unfold. The land is sacred to them. Though they fear it, they also revere it. They love it. They can’t abandon it. But I digress.

Rustics are a welcoming people. Over the years they have taken in all manner of people who could live in no other place. One such wanderer was Angrboða. As the story goes, Angrboða used to be a cloud giant.” He paused while his guests gawked at him. “Yes, the story is she used to be a cloud giant till some trickster trapped her in a human body and forced her to be his bride. To be fair, she did have a golden collar around her neck that not even Svarog could break. But I can only surmise it drove her mad. She was a talented alchemist and herbalist as well and as long as you handled her with care she was a nice enough sort. In any case, she got herself pregnant by the trickster and the progeny was Helen.

Helen was the dearest little girl you could ever imagine. She had waves of hair like the darkest stormclouds and her eyes were like the night. She’d have made an even five feet tall standing one her and maybe eight stone. She was something out of a fairy tale. She was a sickly sort, not the kind that generally lasts well in this part of the world. We used to say she was born half-dead, but she was ever cheerful. The darkness stepped aside for her and she carried the sun with her into any house she entered. I remember her well you see, for the girl loved Vulpes like the earth loves the spring rain. For the life of me, I don’t know why. He was ever either in pursuit of his duties to me or running about with Belinda building giant traps and adventure seeking. Helen didn’t have the strength for that kind of play, but she was happy just to watch him at play. Girls, eh? Who can fathom them? She’d be up here knitting him mittens or embroidering his shirts. She was a good cook too, which is something an old man comes to appreciate after a lifetime on the campaign trail. Most of all, the girl could sing. She could sing the birds in from the trees. I’ll wager she could sing to bring tears to an ogre. Gods! What a voice. Never have I heard a bard who could equal that voice.

Helen was a good girl, but she loved too much. After Belinda was taken, she came by every day to nursemaid Vulpes. Normally I’d not care for someone molly-coddling the boy after I punished him like that, but nobody could long refuse her. This tea we’re drinking? It’s one of those plants that only grows here. It used to be called Choraleaf. Now we call it Helen’s Tears because it is the first sign of spring. We still joke that Old Man Winter let the sun come out to dry Helen’s Tears.

Where was I? Oh, Helen and Vulpes. Vulpes was popular enough with the lasses around that certain age. He was my squire, he could beat any boy around here in a fight, he had that tragic orphan appeal, and there was not a house in the village he’d not aided in some way. But much as they may have made eyes at him, nobody wanted to hurt Helen by taking him. It was just something nobody ever talked about but everyone knew—with Belinda gone, Helen was going to marry my squire the day his service was done.

I’ve good reason to suspect she made a man out him the night she died. They were up to something out in the barn last year, taking far too long to settle the cattle down for the night. No harm in it, I reasoned. Well, young Sven came running out to the house and was yelling about Angrboða having one of her fits. I came out on the porch just in time to see Helen racing out into the night, still pulling her shawl around herself. She took a shortcut Vulpes and Belinda used to use, even though it took her off the path and away from the village gate. Well wouldn’t you know it, there was a troll creeping up to the village looking for mischief and he lit out after her. Vulpes, Sven, and I were all chasing after but Helen had no way to get back around to us.

The troll herded her down into the valley. We could hear her screams all the way.”
The half-elf sat down as though the strength had left his legs and the half-org jumped up demanding: “And the troll?”

“I killed him. It wasn’t as easy as it used to be, but that was ever the way of old age. Vulpes personally scattered its remains. He threw the head down into the flames. Then the three of us went to tell Angrboða the bad news. We got there and found she had already drunk a bottle’s worth of belladonna.

We can still hear Helen, you know. If you are still here after the sun goes down, you’ll hear her song with the cries of the damned. She sings every night of love and longing and home. Just as when she was alive, her song soothes the tortured heart. The damned are quiet for as long as she sings. She sings for her hero, for her love to come take her from that place.” The visitors blanched.

“Vulpes blamed himself. That is why he spends all that time looking into the valley. Over the last year, several other girls have approached him but he turns them all away. Says he won’t have any more blood on his head. He won’t talk about it with me, but I think he blames himself for Helen and for Belinda. Belinda was taken the day she kissed him the first time and then there are my suspicions of what happened in the barn. He’s not ready for any other woman. Right now all he has is his duty to me and to Rustic Village and truth be told, I have run out of lessons to teach him in this village. He needs a new community to defend, a place where he can start over and make a new life.”

The two visitors shared a look. The half-orc nodded and the half-elf turned to the old man and spoke in a more formal manner.

“Sir Dougal, as you have surmised, we are here by order of the Lord Mayor of the Free City of Restov at the request of a close friend of his. His Majesty, Noleski Surtova, whose kingdom you served, has a new project in mind for the Stolen Lands and…

Vulpes di Theseus

Kingmaker Vulpesdi