Chapter 1 – Part 2: Paths Entwined


Paths Entwined

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You are woken moments later by some commotion outside. At least, you thought it was moments later; you glance at the window and see pale daylight creeping in past the edge of the curtain.

What was that noise?

You listen for a while and conclude that some delivery guys accidentally dropped a crate of something they were carrying into the tavern, and are now attempting to deal with that mess.

You sigh; having been jolted awake suddenly, you now have a headache and feel a bit dizzy. You could close your eyes and sleep it off, but then wonder; wait; what time is it? Has Ameronis gone already? They did say they’d be leaving early, though it doesn’t seem to be too long after sunrise, judging by the light…

You stare up at the ceiling and decide to ask to tag along with Ameronis so that you can repay them for the food and room . You don’t want to leave a debt like that unpaid.

Stretching for a moment, you roll out of bed and quickly begin to get ready.


Soon you’re downstairs in the common room. It’s empty, although you can hear one of the tavern workers in the back, apparently seeing off the delivery guys from earlier. A short while later, he enters the room and heads towards the fireplace, noticing you as he goes.

“Breakfast won’t be available for a while yet… ” he says.

You shake your head; you hadn’t even considered that, but tell him that it’s OK. He goes over to the fireplace and begins to scrape out most of the ashes. You ask him if he has seen Ameronis come downstairs yet. He doesn’t stop scraping.

“You’re the first person to come down, unless he came down and snuck out while I was in the back..?”

He begins rearranging the smouldering remains, then adds some fresh wood before fanning the lot, rousing a small fire.

You glance at the door, wondering if Ameronis did leave already. They did say ‘early’.

You figure you’ll wait a while and see. Maybe 15 minutes. Maybe 30. If they don’t show up by then, you’ll assume they’re already gone. Maybe you can grab some of that breakfast the tavern worker mentio- –oh… right… no money…

You idly pat your hidden inner pocket, feeling the notes and coins within; not an insignificant amount by any means. It’s a shame that your money isn’t valid here though. You wonder if there’s anywhere to exchange it nearby, and what the exchange rate is. If you could find such a place, you could solve all your problems right now. Well, assuming it’s open this early.

You walk across the room and open the door, stepping out into the brisk morning air. It’s getting brighter now, though a light fog causes the area to be a little dull and hazy. You glance up and down the street, which is a little busier than you expected at this time of day; everyone certainly looks like they’ve got places to go and things to do. From what you can see, this place doesn’t seem like it’s all that big or populated, though, you are still on the Southern edge of town, so maybe there’s a lot more further on. Either way, there does seem to be a distinct farmer-esque quality to most of the people you see moving about.

“Hey.”

The voice comes from behind you. You turn and look back into the tavern, where you see Ameronis a short way away; robed, masked and carrying their bag over one shoulder. You don’t see the scythe though. Now that you think about it, you don’t remember seeing it at all when you were hanging out with them last night. Did they stash it somewhere just outside of town while you were both approaching in the dark? Would make sense; your battle axe is easy enough to conceal under your bag, coat, sleeping bag, etc, but that scythe? The handle itself was 6 feet long, not to mention the ridiculous blade… Probably best not to walk around with that on display whilst in town.

“I wasn’t expecting to see you,” says Ameronis. “What’s up? You heading out?”

You tell Ameronis that actually; you wanted to tag along so that you’d have an opportunity to pay them back. Going back to your earlier thoughts, you mention the concept of a money changer and ask Ameronis if they know if there’s one in this town and when they open. Ameronis thinks for a moment, then shakes their head.

“This “town” is actually a village, and a pretty small, out-of-the-way one at that, so I doubt if there’s anything like that around here. Your best bet would be the post office I suppose. But I haven’t seen the whole place yet, so you never know what other facilities there are. I do have a lot of wandering around to do here before I move on, so who knows what’s to be found.”

Drat!

“Buuut,” she continues, “if you’re really that determined, you’d probably have better luck earning some money from one of the farmers by helping them out with their chores; there’s no shortage of work to be done, and I’m sure they’d be happy to have another helping hand, even just for a few hours. Chopping wood, baling hay, mucking out stalls, moving stuff around… Either that, or we just move on to the next place once I’m done here and see what we find out in the world.”

You think about it and decide that the best thing to do would be to wander around town with Ameronis and search for some form of currency exchange in town. If there’s a chance you might find something here, might as well take it. And if that fails, you can always look elsewhere.

Ameronis nods.

“Alright, well; let’s get going.”

After gathering up your things, the two of you step out onto the street and begin to wander around the village. For the next couple of hours, the two of you explore the place, during which time Ameronis chats to the locals and makes a series of notes and sketches in a small notebook. Over the course of your exploration, the fog lifts and gives you a better view of the village, which you learn is named Chrendle. It is definitely a very quaint, picturesque place, the kind of place that you’d find on a postcard, with the cottages being especially idyllic.

Unfortunately, they seem to make up 95% of the buildings in Chrendle. Also unfortunately, the village, despite having a small population, is scattered over a surprisingly large area, with multiple dense clusters of housing interspersed with hills and rolling fields. Each cluster is connected with dirt paths, some leading through woodlands, and others past fields edged with high hedgerows. This results in the two of you having to trek across the whole landscape before you get to any other significant location, going up and down hills and over uneven paths as you move in a spiral inwards.

At least you’re getting your daily steps in…

As time goes on, it becomes less and less likely that you’ll find what you’re looking for, as you realise that, aside from the housing, you can count all the building types in this place on one hand. The two of you discover multiple farm buildings, a small temple, a couple of taverns which seem to be the major entertainment hubs of the village, and eventually, a community centre that also serves as the local school, post office, and medical centre (which you imagine is more or less just a room with a first aid kit). Add to that list the inn that you slept in, and you end up with just 5 building types.

By the time you both reach the community centre and you trudge into the post office, you’re more than a little weary. And hungry. At the counter, you speak to the clerk and ask them if they can exchange 100 of your essvons for some of the local currency. You are met with a blank stare followed by a polite but incredulous form of “…Your what!?”. You show the clerk a 10 essvon note which results in an even more baffled expression.

“I’m sorry… I’ve… never seen or heard of that currency before. We only have cogs here…”

You stifle a small sigh but grasp for any small slither of hope. You ask if there is anywhere else in Chrendle that you could check, but the clerk shakes her head.

“No, I’m sorry. I think you’ll have to head into the city for that.”

City..?

You enquire about said city and she tells you that Derna is about 18 miles away to the North-West. It’s a big place with many travellers and immigrants, so they’re bound to have heard of your money there.


You sit down on a bench in the village square with Ameronis, taking a moment to rest and wait for Ameronis to finish compiling more notes. They are unsurprised by the post office’s lack of foreign currencies but refrain from saying “I told you so”. You ask if they’ve ever heard of or been to Derna; they bobble their head around a bit.

“I’ve seen the name written down, but I’ve never been there. I also don’t have the foggiest idea about the place, but we’ll find out soon enough.”

You watch the people as they go about their business, and listen to the handful of schoolchildren as they play in the schoolyard behind a fence nearby. You lean back on the bench and enjoy the sunlight, which is nice and warm in contrast to the air, which is still brisk. You wonder out loud what people do for entertainment around here, to which Ameronis replies bluntly with “work and drink” whilst scribbling more notes down.

“Doesn’t seem like there’s much time or facilities for anything else really. They wake up, work hard in the farms and fields from dawn till dusk, go have a drink to unwind in the evenings, go to bed, then do it all again the next day. A simple, honest living I guess. Though, I imagine it might be a bit too simple for your liking. Unless I’ve got you all wrong and you’re actually planning to settle down here?”

Ameronis glances at you; you can’t see their face past the mask, but you get the impression they’re smirking at you. You shake your head; you left your home to go and explore the world and see the sights. You’ve seen pretty much everything there is to see here already, and would now like to see the back of it.

Ameronis laughs and then motions to the notebook.

“Well, we’ll be heading out as soon as I’m done with this.”

You’re about to ask what all the notes and pictures are about, but Ameronis stands up suddenly.

“Actually, hang on a second. Wait here…”

They stride off back towards the community centre without another word, then return a couple of minutes later, holding up both hands and shrugging.

“Well, the good news is, there is a road leading directly from here to Derna, and they regularly make trips there in a wagon to deliver grain, meat and milk and get some supplies. The bad news is that recent rainy weather combined with poor practices by one “old man Shears” caused a landslide which has made a section of the road impassible. Their wagons can’t get past it and they have no all-terrain vehicles, so there’s no way we can get a lift from here to the city. So! I hope our gentle stroll around the village has got you hungry for more because we’re walking to Derna!”


After another 30 minutes of trekking across the valley, you finally come to the Northern edge of the village, and a short while later, you end up on the ‘road’ Ameronis mentioned. It’s a wide dirt path with deep grooves left by wagon wheels and numerous horseshoe prints. You follow the road for another half mile through some woodland and eventually note the strong smell of soil and manure in the air. Prior to this point, it was just a faint smell of manure in some areas around the village.

A few minutes later, you come across the incident site; where there were previously tall trees there is now open air, and the relatively flat road is now completely buried under a wide slope several meters across made of clods of earth, thick mud and fallen trees. At least 20 men are here, attempting to dig their way through the slope, chop through the fallen trees, and clear away the general debris. Almost every single one is caked in mud; up to their knees or elbows or both and more, and the whole area stinks; there’s a distinct sewage smell on top of the manure and soil smells.

The two of you watch the men work from a distance; they’ve clearly been at it for a while and have made a decent dent, but still have a long way to go. A man holding an axe notices you both as he moves past. He pauses and wipes his brow on his rolled-up sleeve, and confirms that you shouldn’t try to get past this way; you can climb over the mound if you really want to, but he wouldn’t recommend it. He points up the hill.

“You’d best go up and around, up past the farm, then continue North until you reach the road again further on. It’s a longer path, but…” He looks you up and down. “better that than ruining all your gear in this muck, eh?”

He jerks his thumb back at the mound, then excuses himself to return to tackling it. Ameronis stands with their hands on their hips, looking at the mound then up the hill.

“Guess we’d better get to it…”

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