From The Jackals To The Shepherds 08: Five of Hearts

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Battlebards Tracks used:

Elven Dirge – Farewell – Score Music – Philippe Payet

Dark Elf City – Black Towers Of The Spider Queen – Score Music – Marc Cholette


For a long time, we were at war with The Jackals. But now, we’ve driven them off, and we have this – a year of relative peace. In this moment, there is an opportunity to build something.

A week has passed.

The rain has fallen for a week straight. Roads dug into the earth have become troughs of mud. We huddle in our shacks for warmth, and protect dry clothing as if it were a scarce resource. The spring air has begun to warm, but the extra degrees do not make up for the heat lost to dampness. The only ones unphased by the wetness are the children, whose excess energy of youth spurs them to create their own heat through activity. Ezekiel, Yuen, and the others sprint and scamper through the camp, their yells and laughter bubbling its way into our dripping homes.

This morning, as they play under the leaking clouds, they venture near the mine entrance for the first time in weeks. As if the scaled creature below were nothing more than a dream, Yuen goads Ezekiel towards the doors set in the earth. They giggle and dance together in the rain and the mud, splashing both in each others direction. As they near the mines, Yuen’s heel catches on something dislodged by the rain and she tumbles backwards.

As she rights herself, Ezekiel pulls the offending object from the earth’s grasp. A thick rectangle, made of rusted metal, the same rust that bleeds through The Jewel of Gerard. He turns the item over in his hands and sees indents and carvings in the surface. This engraved plate, lost long ago by the original inhabitants of the camp, lain under the dirt for who knows how many years. Ezekiel, eyes wide with wonder, stares at the rusted surface and rubs his thumb over the signature of the artist in awe.

Back in the shacks, as Drach’s hammer rings out over us, Ezekiel brings the plate to his mother, Eileen. She and other artists set about gingerly cleaning the rust and grime from the plate. As Ezekiel and Yuen watch, the community’s artists restore the engraving over the course of a soggy afternoon. When they reveal the grisly tale depicted, murmurs and hushed whispers ripple backwards through the onlookers. Despite the best efforts of the adults, both Yuen and Ezekiel catch a glimpse of a scaled creature engraved in the metal, bursting from an egg, with humanoid legs all that is left to protrude from a ravenous mouth.

Eileen hands the plate to Clovis and Figueroa, two lovers who were once art professors in the city, and ushers the children out of the shack. The lovers trace their fingers over the engravings and are surprised to feel the barest of indentations that would compose a script. The script flows off the edge of the plate, where Clovis discovers a hairline split that once teased splits the plate into two engravings, melded by time. Figueroa cleans the second as Clovis reads the first. Through their shared experience, the two manage to piece together a rough story that follows the images on the plates. After a short conference, they gather the adults and present a warning from the previous occupants of the mining camp, a warning left under mud and overgrown with weedy grass for an innumerable amount of years. Clovis begins the tale, and is assisted by Figueroa when the words become too much.

“Beware those who settle here, to mine, to log, or to live. There is something within the earth. There is something within the woods. And there is something within the river that runs through the camp. We have made relative peace with two of these three, but live in trepidation of the third.

Some strange effect preserves our changes to the natural world. Every tree we fell petrifies itself and no amount of effort can be made to remove the stump. Likewise, every chip we make into the earth is irreplaceable, and no sediment builds in the mines we dig. Our actions to this land are permanent, but I fear that we will not be. Our houses have shown accelerated rates of decay and through the actions with the monsters of this land our numbers have shrunk to nearly unsustainable levels. I leave this warning on hammered sheets of our gains from the mines, so that those who come to us will be forewarned.” At this, Clovis hands the plate to his partner and takes a hearty drink from a mug of water brought to him. Figueroa continues.

“The first monster, a great wolven Beast lurks outside the limits of our lights. It lives in fear of their beams, however, it will take any opportunity given by a flickering bulb or an inopportune shadow. Its breath fogs in the winter nights as the air grows colder. Its fur shags and mats with our blood. We have learned to control it by…” at this, Figueroa’s voice trails off and he explains that this passage has been worn down too far to read.

“The second monster is a scaled creature asleep in a cave we stumbled upon in our mining. It guards its nest ferociously and will thankfully not stray too far from its edge. However, once the eggs hatched it showed no restraint in its instinct to provide food for the young. We managed to lock it within the mine entrance and were forced to listen for two days as it ate its young, or as one of the young ate the others. We have still not opened the mine doors out of fear.

The third monster, asleep at the bottom of the river, came last. As the first snow fell in the fall we knew the danger as it rose from the wet banks and…” at this Figueroa stopped reading. The metal plates were handed to an aide and the two lovers held each other. Concerned faces looked at each other as we sat in the shack, silently shaken by the disquieting legend left to us in the earth.

Clovis and Figueroa announce that they will work to interpret the missing sections of the plates and will work with community leaders to use the warnings and knowledge to prepare us. Our leaders spread optimistic news in the face of these warnings. We will use their warnings to ensure our safety against the threats. With the recent activation of the generator, the perimeter lights, and reinforced housing coming soon, we should have nothing to fear.

Eventually the rain abates and the first ray of sunlight we’ve seen in a week peers through the clouds. The ray shines down on Yuen and Ezekiel playing, you guessed it, in the mud by the riverbank. As Yuen washes the mud from Ezekiel’s face, something floating in the river upstream catches her eye. As it floats past them, she grabs the floating doll from the water. Its cloth grey with age and wilted from lack of stuffing, she turns it over in her hands. Engraved in its back is the signature of the artist from the metallic plates. Ezekiel quietly asks her not to tell the adults and she silently agrees. She stuffs the ancient doll in her pack and they walk back to the camp, holding each other’s hand tightly.

A week passes.

Thank you for joining us for the eighth episode of From The Jackals To The Shepherds. If you like this show please give us a rating on iTunes, tell a friend, or share us on social media. As always the intro for the show was read by Dave Lapru, who is also our mapkeeper. You can find Dave on twitter at plantbird, and I’m at leviathan files. Additional voices for this episode were provided by James Malloy who is At andthemeltdowns on twitter of the Stop Hack & Roll podcast. Please consider supporting the show on Patreon at patreon dot com slash Riverhouse Games. Music for this episode was provided by Battlebards dot com. Until next week, I hope your week goes well.
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