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Townsmen with the shakes huddle around the glowing embers of what may have been a roaring fire. Speak quick, lest thee be to long in the open!
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On the way to the Monroe Farm

Tue Mar 23, 2010 2:48 pm

Dallid strode out of the keep and back into the rain. He stopped briefly to look skyward. Water was life – following a similar (though far less complex) cycle – and he relished the sensation of the droplets streaming across his face. Then he was off again, on his way to the Monroe farm, Esmerelda by his side.

Once beyond the gate, he spoke frankly.

“Many people will be wary of placing another person in a position of authority over them – especially those who survived the Night of the Burning Skulls. They have been betrayed before, and will be doubly cautious to trust another leader. Talk of someone suddenly owning the land upon which they have lived and worked for a decade or more, to do with as they will – even in jest – is likely to be taken in alarming context.”

“The role you take on is a burdensome one with few true perks – indeed, only the perks necessary to meet your responsibilities. To imply otherwise is to invite anger and jealousy. “

Tue Mar 23, 2010 3:30 pm

"Wha- I-" Esmerelda stammered, clearly caught off guard by Dallid's counsel. For a moment there was a flash in her eye and a set to her jaw that spoke of anger and defensiveness. After a few seconds and a visible swallow she drops her head, ashamed.

"You're right. I spoke without thinking in jest. It is still hard to realize that now more than ever every word I speak will carry meaning, whether I mean it to or not. Every action, no matter how large or small will be debated over its significance. All it takes is one mispoken word and everything we've worked so hard to build can come crashing down around us." She puts a hand on his shoulder and gives him a sincere smile, her eyes full of gratitude. "Thank you. I meant what I said to Sebastien. You are a voice a reason. Apparently even to myself.

Lightning flashes again. She throws her head back and gives a small bitter laugh. "And the perks? Oh yes, can't forget those. People plotting to kill you because they don't want anyone in charge. Making enemies no matter what you decide in a situation because someone is always going to be bitter, even when you try to do what's best for all. Giving everything you have and being told it isn't enough because you didn't do more. Some perks."

"But that's not the reason I want to do it. I want to know that Farmer Monroe will get his crops in, even if he has a broken leg, without having to worry about invading armies trampling or burning them in the fields. I want to see the Willowby's sixth baby grow up safe and happy and not get eaten by some monster rampaging through the wilderness. It's seeing the joy in the children's faces as we play knights and pirates by the lake. It's watching the youths and maids fall in love and start their lives together. It's knowing that families aren't going to be torn apart by the wreck that this world has become after the Cataclysm. Those are the true perks of being a leader. I just wish that more people understood that."

Tue Mar 23, 2010 9:13 pm

“More will, over time. These are the reasons so many currently support you. They have had the fortune to see how well suited you are for this role – have witnessed your capacity for the right and responsibility of leadership.”

“Impressive, indeed, to say the least. When a soft touch is required, you are patient and gentle. When a heavy hand, you are forceful, confident, and uncompromising. Like some others, I have seen your intelligence and adaptability first hand.”

“Unfortunately, most only hear of your exploits second or third hand. Stories inevitably change with each telling, becoming exaggerated for both good and ill. They must form all judgments based upon these flawed snippets – judgements exaggerated further for their lack of basis. Hence a need for equally exaggerated care.”


He stopped and turned toward the call. A woman stood in the doorway of one of the dwellings along the street. He approached the door. “Greetings, Emily. Is it your hands, again?”

She held them out, presenting her swollen knuckles. “’fraid so. Sorry to keep bothering you about them. Good Evening, Lady Esmerelda.” She takes note of the rain and chuckes. "Well, evening, anyway."

“Not at all.” Dallid held his hands over hers, and a faint white glow filled the space between them. Over several minutes the swelling reduced as he gradually increased the joint fluid to healthy levels. The relief would be temporary, as Emily was in her 50’s and her body had simply stopped maintaining proper padding between some of her joints. In a few days the pain would gradually start to return. She’d endure it for a few more days, then once more seek a healer’s aid. Such treatment of common aches and pains tended to keep healers in every town and settlement busy.

"There will be a town meeting in May" Dallid went on. "Where town governance will be discussed and a new leader selected."

"Oh..." Emily seemed taken aback. Unnerved. "Like Corbyn? Before the Elves came?"

"Such as Esmerelda, after the Elves left."

"Oh... Oh!" She turned toward Esmerelda, eyes lighting up. "That sounds nice!"

"Rest assured, everyone will have their input. Other nominations may be made and arguements presented. Afterward will be a cornation ceremony for the leader decided upon, " Dallid winked, "mainly an excuse for a good party. But also a formal seal on the promise of coordination and care on the town level."

The glow faded. Emily sighed as she rubbed her hands. “My, they feel so much better. Thank you. Here…” She drew a copper piece from her purse and offered it forward. Dallid nodded his thanks as he accepted it. Most people felt a need to repay kindness given or service rendered, and refusing such a physical representation of their thanks tended to upset them. Nearly all of Dallid’s money came from such donations.

Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:31 pm

Esmerelda looked on fondly as dallid healed Emily's hands. This was the kind of good the people of Haven needed from the adventurers that called the land home. After Emily went on her way, she turned to Dallid.

"Emily is a widow, isn't she? Do you think it would make it easier for her if I got some of the younger girls to come and help her around the house? Or do you think she'd look badly upon that?"

Wed Mar 24, 2010 2:19 pm

"She strikes me as fiercely independent, but she also enjoys company and I fear is rather lonely. Yes, I suspect asking some girls to help out would prove most beneficial.”

They were back on the road toward the Monroe farm for only a few minutes before they saw someone running toward them out of the darkness. Dallid cautiously reached for the hilt of his sword.

“Dallid! Thank the elements!”

He dropped his hand back to his side as he recognized the voice – a local teenage named Peter, son of Cody, a town laborer.

“It’s father! His heart…”

Dallid followed the young man at a sprint, cutting across yards and leaping fences until they reached his house. Just inside the door family members huddled around a man lying prone on the floor. Peter’s father was unconscious. His wife Rebecca held his hand, daughters Gypsum and Valerie hovering helplessly beside her. They immediately stood and backed away as Dallid and Peter entered, Esmerelda, despite her skirts, close behind. “HELP HIM!” Rebecca screamed.

Cody wasn’t breathing. Had they arrived too late? Dallid kneeled beside him, hands glowing over his chest. The man’s essence was still within – he could be saved. Another half minute and it might have been a different story.

Dallid went to work. In seconds, Cody drew in a heaving breath. Rebecca choked back a sob. “Is he going to be all right?”

“He will be,” Dallid repied, concentration focused on Cody, “in a few minutes.”

The minutes passed – Dallid was sure it seemed like an eternity for the family – and then it was done. He withdrew his hands as Cody’s eyes fluttered open.

“That was a bad one.” Cody croaked.

“They’ve all been bad.” Dallid replied.

The man nodded solemnly.

“Cody,” Dallid went on in a gentle voice, “that was the second heart attack in the space of a single moon.”

Cody nodded again.

“I can soften your arteries so the blood flows easier, I can start your heart when it stops, but I cannot strengthen it – not for long - and it is rapidly weakening.”

Another nod with frowning acceptance. “It’s my time, isn’t it.”

“It has been for awhile.”

The family’s tears were flowing freely now. Peter was trying to maintain a strong front, but Dallid suspected not all the moisture on his face was from the rain. “Father… no…” Gypsum pleaded.

“I won’t take more from the cycle than is my due! No more reviving, and no resurrections. This is it.” Cody declared with finality. Then confusion crossed his face. He turned back to Dalld. “But… You’re always talking about the Cycle… I heard you died – years ago, back when that Dragon was defeated. Everyone thought you were dead. Then you showed up in Far Reach. What happened? Were you resurrected?”

Dallid paused for a moment. “It’s complicated,” he said finally, “but, no, I wasn't.”

“Complicated?” Cody gave a weak laugh. “How can it be complicated? Either you have or you haven’t!”

“I’d prefer not to discuss it.”

Cody frowned. “Well… that’s an odd answer, but we won’t pry. Here…” He handed Dallid a silver piece. “Wish I could give you more – you’ve given me time to put my affairs in order, and that’s more than I could ask.”

Dallid accepted the silver. “This donation is more than enough. Thank you. I will check in from time to time, and if there is any assistance I may offer, for any of you, do not hesitate to ask.”

Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:11 pm

As Dallid worked on Cody, Esmerelda placed a calming hand on Rebecca's shoulder and then went to comfort the daughters of the house. She held Gypsum's hand while letting Valerie cry on her shoulder.

"It will be alright," Esmerelda said softly. "Dallid knows what he's about. If it's possible he'll save your father. If it's Cody's time, he'll help him make the transition with no pain." Her thoughts went to her own father. Had he susrived the night that the whole world shattered? No one knew what became of those who'd gone to Strider's call.

As Cody breathed, Esmerelda gnetly turned the girl to see. "See? He's breathing. He'll live." She still held onto the girls as Dallid discussed the limited amount of time Cody had remaining to him. She squeezed Gypsum's hand in sympathy as the girl pleaded for her father to stay alive.

She listened with interest as Dallid discussed his own condition with the villager. After they finished, Esmerelda addressed the man. "I will make sure your family is taken care of. As long as I am breathing, I will make sure they will not want for food, clothing or shelter. I promise you this."

Wed Mar 24, 2010 8:28 pm

"I thank you, my lady, though I don't like the thought of my family living on hand-outs. What do you think, Becky?"

Rebecca shook her head. "I don't want to talk about this right now, but I'm sure we'll get by."

"I've been helping you out for awhile now, pa. " Peter offered. "I'm ready to do full jobs, now - I know I am!"

"And I've been tending to the critters on the farms for awhile now. I... I could maybe ask for a full share." Valerie offered.

"We'll see." Cody responded to them both. "But keep the Lady's offer in mind, Becky, should times get tough."

"We will." Becky confirmed with a sob. "Now stop with this kind of talk!"

Dallid and Esmerelda stepped out, giving the family time to themselves, and started back toward the Monroe farm. They were nearly there when they realized they were being followed

Dallid spun around and called "Who goes?"

Gypsum spoke as she approched. "I've heard there's a way to resurrect someone using another's body. Where he'd emerge healthy and whole. You can do that, right?"

Dallid looked briefly to Esmerelda. "Not either of us, no. I understand some Archanes know of such a spell. However, someone must die for it to work."

"So?" Gypsum stomped foward. "You guys kill bandits all the time! Use one of them! Just tell my Dad it's okay to be resurrected!"

Dallid approached the 13-year-old. "A resurrection moves essense in the opposite direction than intended by the Cycle. While the damage done is neither severe nor permanant, it is still a disruption. I cannot condone it."

"But didn't [i]you[i] die?"

"I'd rather not -"


Dallid answered softly, with resignation. "... Yes. I did."


"I would not discourage your father if that was his decision, but will not suggest it, and I did not resurrect. I am still dead."

Gypsum took a step back, eyes wide with horror. "You're... you're undead?"

Dallid shook his head. "Dead. Not undead. I am still very much one with Phanterra. What you see before you is a mindless vessel shaped and controlled by my will. The essence within is not strictly me but ... borrowed.. from the world around us. I am not an intruding entity from outside the Cycle - rather, it'd be more accurate to say I am from within."

Gypsum was having nothing of it. "You're an abomination... a monster!"

"A monster is something you must fear. You need not fear me."

Gypsum appeared entirely unconvinced - only able to see deceit and maliciousness in Dallid's words.

Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:38 pm

Watching the scene between Dallid and Gypsum play out made Esmerelda's heart ache. She knew well the girl's feelings, she was of a similar age when she lost her own father.

When the conversation turned to Dallid's own state sudden flashes of things she'd overheard by the other healers who had attended to him suddenly made more sense. Never any blood... Almost seemed more like sticks than bones... All this time and she'd never realized. Not that it made a difference, he was still the same good man, no matter what his body was comprised of.

Slowly she approached the girl. "Gypsum. Dallid is not a monster. Would a monster have helped your father as much as he has?"

Softly she spoke to the child. "The spell you speak of right now there is no one I know in Haven who is capable of casting it. It has a great cost. And the blood price is steep. Casting it destroys someone's essence entirely. Yes we kill bandits, but in a battle. We protect our lands, but do not hunt them down like animals to slaughter.

"And there is more. No matter how powerful the spell, if your father's spirit does not desire to return it will not. No magic can do that if the spirit is not willing. He seems to have made peace with his fate. Will you take that away from him?"

Esmerelda waited for the girl's response, hoping that Gypsum would understand but knowing all too well what her own reaction would have been at that age.

Thu Mar 25, 2010 11:36 am

“But he’ll come back if you tell him to, Lady Esmerelda! Tell him to stay with us! Tell him to stay!”

“Gypsum?” Peter approached through the rain and hugged his sister. Still holding her, he looked up at Dallid and Esmerelda. “I’m sorry about this. In hindsight, it’s so obvious father’s heath has been worsening for some time. But tonight we’ve just learned how bad it really is. We’re in shock. I’ll take her home, where she needs to be. We just need some time.”

They watched the two walk away. “Sometimes there is no wrong to right, no riddle to solve, nothing that can be fixed or improved. “ Dallid said, almost to himself. “Sometimes the situation is only what it is, as hard as that might be to accept.”

They traveled the last leg of their journey, finally arriving at the farm. Dallid knocked on the door, and a moment later the wife, Terria, opened it a crack and peaked out.

“Greetings.” Dallid nodded his head at the woman. “I understand Samual is injured. We have come to lend assistance.”

Terria opened the door further, but frowned. “His leg is all ready set and bound. He’s resting easy and has potions for the pain. Don’t know what more you could do for him.”

“I am a Master Healer. I could mend his injuries entirely and have him back on his feet in a few minutes.”

“NO MAGIC!” Came a shout from deeper in the house.

“Magic is the most natural thing in the world, Terria.” Dallid persisted. “If I could come in for a few minutes to talk with Samual, perhaps I could convince him to accept aid.”

Terria shook her head. “You heard Mr. Monroe. We won’t have any of that hocus-pocus mojo cast in here.”

“How about a healing potion, then? I have a few on me…”

“Now you save those potions for people who really need them, Mr. Dallid – people who are actually dying. Mr. Monroe will be back on his feet in a moon or two, and be right as rain well before harvest season. We’ve got plenty of friends and offspring to help with the planting. We’ll do just fine.”

Fri Mar 26, 2010 1:28 pm

Esmerelda watched Peter lead his sister away, her heart going out to the girl. Hopefully with time she'd understand. She'd have to make sure to visit the family soon. And alert the town elder that the family might need some help, but subtly.

As the lights of the Monroe farm came into sight she gave a small sigh of relief. It had been a much busier night than anticipated and she had to be up early to head out to the villages. Mentally going through her to do list the next day she only half listened to the exchange between Dallid and Terria.

"NO MAGIC!" brought her back to the coversation. She quickly lifted a hand to her face to hide the smile that appeared. Thank goodness it was dark outside. She hadn't realized the Monroes were one of the families who distrusted magic of any kind. Otherwise she might have given Dallid a warning. Her heart liaghtened at Terria's last words.

"You do have enough help?" She asked. "If you need any more, we can certainly send people from the keep to aid you. That's why I came with Dallid. I wanted to be sure you were going to be alright getting the planting done."

Fri Mar 26, 2010 3:33 pm

“That’s very sweet of you, my Lady, but we got along just fine before the Cataclysm and were getting along just fine today. You castle folk just keep the monsters and trouble-makers away and we’ll keep the silos full of grain.”

“Now git along home, you two. You’ll catch your death out on the road on a night like this!”

They said their farewells and began the trek back to the Keep.

Sun Mar 28, 2010 8:57 pm

As the duo headed back towards the keep, Esmerelda felt like she should say something to Dallid about what had occrued on the road with Gypsum. Not knowing where to begin, she pondered in silence how to best begin. When they were close to the keep she stopped walking and turned to him. "Dallid-"

"Lady Esmerelda! Lady Esmerelda! There you are!" A boy no more than ten or eleven summers ran up. "Papa said to find you right quick! It's mama's time and you said you'd be there!"

"I knew that baby would come tonight!" Giving an apologetic look to Dallid, she set off towards the Willowby's house.

Utter chaos met their eyes when they arrived. A toddler was sitting on the floor crying. Cups and bowls were overturned on the table, spilling food everywhere. Two small girls were hiding under the table and a boy of 8 was dangling precariously on the ladder leading up to the loft. A harried man sat amongst the chaos, with a wild look in his eye. From the back room of the cottage could be heard the efforts of Myra's child being brought to bear and the soothing murmurs of the midwife.

"Oh thank the stars you're here!" Argus cried out. Within a moment Esmereda had the baby on her hip quietly sucking on a piece of bread. A quick pass with a towel cleaned up the table. A stern stare followed by a smile brought the acrobat down to the main floor and the playmates from under the table.

"Time for bed!" She announced cheerily. "Argus, why don't get the children into their nightclothes. I'm going to see what's going on," she called over her shoulder as she went into the back bedroom.

"You'd think I'd be used to this by now," the man smiled somewhat sheepishly at Dallid.

Mon Mar 29, 2010 11:19 am

“I’d be concerned if you had become jaded to such a momentous event. Excitement, worry, and, yes, chaos, are the expected norms here. You’re doing fine.”

“But now that Esmerelda has established some sense of control, I’ll help you see your children to bed. Trust we’ll be called immediately should either be needed.”

Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:58 pm

"I'm rightly glad you're here, Mr. Dallid. I know they say birthing is mostly a woman thing, but it's nice to have another male around during the process. And it's a good piece of mind knowing a healer's present should anything go wrong."

Indeed, it seemed as if Dallid's mere presence brought a calming effect to the man. Within a short amount of time the four tots were attired for bed. the two little girls hugged and kissed their father good night and even shyly came up to embrace Dallid as well.

Esmerelda emerged from the rear bedroom. "Still looks like it might be a bit."

The children were all packed off the bed, Argus was prevailed upon to eat some supper and Esmerelda managed to wash the supper dishes and set the living area to rights. The trio then settled in to wait. Argus paced and smoked his pipe. Esmerelda walked between the two rooms. After an hour she enetered the bedroom and didn't return. Myra's efforts could be heard through the door, as well as the midwife's commands to push.

A seeming eternity later, the squall of a newborn echoed throughout the house. A few moments later a beaming Esmerlda came through the door carrying a blanket. Walking up to Argus, she set the bundle into his arms. "Congratulations," she smiled. "It's a boy."
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