Emerald Chronicles, Volume 5 (book)

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There are six volumes in the Emerald Chronicles. These books detail the rise of Graev and the Emerald Knights as forces protecting civilization from the dangers of the Dark Hand beyond Corik's Wall.



Contents

Emerald Chronicles V: The Child

11th day of Arhat

Year of the Crystal Snow Hare, 202

Hren,
Ptera came back and was with child! She arrived on the Hand's surge at the wall's eastern leg wearing no armor and bearing wounds from the swarming diggers. Though she is exiled I feared for her safety, Hren! I couldn't allow her and an innocent to die on our watch, no matter the Ferdahl's decree. I ordered Second Farol to take her to Shadow's Reach where she would be safe from the fray below.

Thank the Mighty that neither the watch who spotted her nor Farol recognized her in the cloaks she wore. I scarcely recognized her myself! When I went to the recluse' dwelling to speak with her the following morning, I could not see the knight that once lead us under those verdant silk banners. She is a maiden of the moors, Hren! How far to fall! She made no explanation to me of her situation (which I don't expect I am owed) but we spoke long about the Hand and I thanked her for the warnings she sent to us.

It's been a gypsy's curse to try and keep secret this woman and her black-haired babe as the men are like jackals once they've the scent of gossip. I cannot help but have pity for her, and she does not need to hear what bawdy and cruel tavern songs are sung about her name. It would cause a riot among my men if her identity were known; as many say she and her rangers are blackened by the wood and now ride as its minions.

If you could spare it, would you send some of the girls' clothing from their infancy? The boy has only what swaddling the recluse has given him and he will grow too big and restless for it soon enough.
Geoff


33rd day of Ka'len

Year of the Crystal Snow Hare, 202

Hren,
Many thanks for the clothing, which arrived on a caravan last evening. They should suit him well enough until he is walking. I will be going to the Reach at week's end so the babe shall have them then. It is terrible to have to be sly in my movements, but if I am seen traveling to the Reach it will only cause more questions.

I'm glad to hear Tijit's training is going well. She will bear more bruises before she is able to ride with a lance, but I think she is up to the measure if she puts her mind to practicing each andu. Tell Einselda to mix her poultice in larger batches!

We've finished cleaning up from the Hand's last surge and took far less damage to the eastern leg than I'd feared. It should take only a few weeks to make repairs once we've gathered some supplies. The repairs are never as difficult as defending the breaches while they are made. As the winter will be upon us in another month, I am glad we will not have to battle snow as well.

A package should come by rider in a few weeks and this will have your Shosandu presents. It is early yet, but keep them safe until then. I trust my man with it better than the post riders. Take care to keep it from falling, as there are some items of glass inside.
Geoff


5th day of Lirisa

Year of the Silver Unicorn, 203

Hren,
I went to the Reach this morning and the recluse says our maiden and her rangers have left again for the Hand! She has abandoned her poor babe to the old woman, giving him only life and a name, Seome, before leaving him to his fate. Is her heart so cold? Or is it truth that the demon wood has made it so? If this is so then I can only hope her child should at least be free of its wickedness if he cannot have the comfort of his mother's hand.

Thank you for the gifts you and Alizia sent. The fur lining fits well in my great cloak and the belt is a fine choice! I have lost some of my girth since last we saw each other and yet the belt will accommodate. It's quite smart and I'm sure Alizia had a hand in its choosing. Thank you all, I will use them in good health and glorious battle.
Geoff


8th day of Nissa, 203

Hren,
We are having difficulties again purchasing enough food to meet our needs with the Ferdal's coin. I'm afraid I must ask you to look up our clerk friend and see if he is able to make arrangements for us again through his guild connections. I would not ask given your current trials were it not a dire need.

My cares are lifted some when I am able to travel to the recluse to see Seome. He is broad-chested already, Hren! And such a battle-cry! He is ruby-cheeked and happy, an odd contrast to the dour and grey-skinned recluse who takes moments to glare at me while she shuffles through her dwelling during my visits with Seome. She is not pleased with my coming and makes it clear with few words, but if I come with food or cloth and other necessary sundries, she allows me in.

No child should be abandoned by its mother, but no child should have to bear the shame of his mother either. Perhaps it is best if he never knows of the circumstances that brought him to the old woman. Please be well and you will hear from me soon again.
Geoff


12th day of Uthmor

Year of the Bronze Wyvern, 204

Hren,
Your news does not bode well for us, as the clerk will do us little good fishing on the north banks of the Gwenalion. Our larder is empty and the pantry emptying quickly. And there is none of lamp oil for purposes other than the watch. The men have begun to notice the thinner soup and it's beginning to affect their general spirits. I've sent a small group of my men to hunt so that we may have some meat this month. As the winter draws close, the hunt will become harder and we will have to have other arrangements before then. The Mighty forgive me for saying so, but damn that Eloth for his games! The defenses cannot fail for want of bread.
Geoff


12th day of Dolefaren

Year of the Bronze Wyvern, 204

Hren,

Thank you for your package, friend, it was very well received. I know it is all you can spare and I will not be selfish with any of it. Even the smallest morsel goes far, as we've had only hard biscuits and troll fat for nine weeks. You must tell Maerdelle and Maerissa that their uncle Geoff is very pleased at the chestnuts they gathered. Alizia's pie was as good as gifts from the Immortals and all of my officers appreciated a slim slice of it. I will bring some of the cheese and nectarines to the lad, as he will not grow on hard tack and grease alone.

I've posted a letter to Roland and I hope he does not disappoint. If I hear good things from him in the coming andaen I will tell you our plans. Pray for us, Hren!
Geoff


36th day of Ka'len the Sea Drake

Year of the Bronze Wyvern, 205

Hren,
We've had Chadatru's blessings at long last! Roland's letter arrived this morning and he's had success guilding the crofters. I worry not of treason, as should the Baron ever have cause to discover us then he will surely see the worthiness of the cause. His throne is as scarred from the Priests' war as any in the Southlands. If we can just get their goods to us in the south, the crofters will take our price if we contract with them annually. Likewise, I can only pay you fifteen bronze per barrel, but you will have an annual contract for five hundred barrels. Now that is a measure of security.

What we yet need to do is arrange with the trade minister in the Crossing to bring your barrels north to Roland at the driver's cost and to see if our old clerk friend north of Riverhaven can help us get the loaded barrels south to us. I've enclosed a letter of introduction for you to bring to the trade minister in your city. He is a brother by marriage to one of our ranks and the letter mentions his name. I should wish that you travel north to be the one to speak with the clerk, as he was fond of you and I think you bear our best advantage. I know Alizia and the shop can scarcely spare your absence, but it would be a great service to the realms. Will you do it, Hren?
Geoff


25th day of Moliko the Balance

Year of the Bronze Wyvern, 205

Hren,
I hope this letter finds you settled in from your journey and that your words found purchase in the clerk's sympathies. You've done well in any event, comrade, and the Emerald Knights are once again in your debt. The hunger and shortages have become quite clear, and we have had the shame of deserters. The Hand does not rest because our bellies are empty and the men are weary with hunger. I have beseeched the Ferdahl for more food or coin, but he only questions my command and speaks of limits to his supplies. I cannot fathom the people of this land, Hren. It makes my mind tired and my heart sad.

In the darkest anlas, though, I do not regret my command. The only haunt that finds me in those times is that I have had no children and no legacy. I see the lad as often as the recluse allows but it is not enough to satisfy my affection for him. Had I taken the time in my youth to find a maiden for my hearth I might take this boy into my home and raise him to be a knight as was his mother once. He is three now and talking strongly. His simple curiosity is a joy to an old man, but I admit his questions can become so tiresome that I am happy to turn him back into the recluse' care. With each visit my admiration for your fathering such a fine brood of girls grows. Blessings are yours, friend!
Geoff


32nd day of Nissa

Year of the Bronze Wyvern, 205

Hren,
Though much delayed, the caravan at long last arrived just after the anlas of Meraud's Blessing! A blessing indeed! It didn't take long for delicious smells to find their way from the hearth outside to my windowless office, decreeing the end of our starving time. Tonight the refectory was full of joyous noise and the delighted clattering of forks upon tin plates. I have never before relished an onion as the sweet Therengian bulb I pulled first from the wagon and could not restrain myself from eating. Second Farol might have thought me mad were he not as hungry as I. With my permission, the second onion was his!

This will be a glad Shosandu at the Wall and I know each knight will be at chancel that eve. Let us pray for blessings in the new year! Your packages should arrive from the Northlands as Roland and I have conspired together on your gifts. Do the girls still use the glass cream bowl I sent? I have given Seome one much like it and have instructed him to fill the bowl with cream and leave it for Divyaush Shosandu eve. He is so young yet, but he understands. I only hope the recluse allows it, as I'm still unable to tell the difference between her scowl and her smile. Blessed Shosandu to all of you!
Geoff


17th day of Lirisa the Archer

Year of the Amber Phoenix, 206

Hren,
Tidings! I hope you are all well. I have recently been taken to bed with a fever, but am recovered fully now. Such fevers travel through the barracks and wall walk infecting every third man. This was a mild one and we have had no deaths to it.

I stayed from the lad for two months to be sure I would not carry the illness to the recluse's home. I'm anxious to see him and will likely go before the end of the week. He grows so fast that even a few months find him much changed. I have bought a drawing slate and chalk to bring him (parsnips and cotton thread for the old woman) and will begin teaching him to form letters.

I am so very sorry that I should miss Tijit's tournament. Nothing would please me more than to see her joust, the idea of it fills me with pride! But I cannot leave the Wall for so long at this time. You will report all of her performance to me, won't you? I know she will be modest in her letters and she will tell me less than half of it.

Have you yet purchased the lot adjacent to your shop? I should think an additional yard would be a great help to your small coopery.
Blessings of the Mighty,
Geoff


34th day of Uthmor, 206

Hren,
I can have a rider bring you the gold by the morning you buy the lot. I know you have a keen sense of things, but please see to it you meet this fellow in a busy place, like the market square. If you fear any scuffle, take Tijit with you as I believe there is nothing so serious that should happen that your combined sword skill cannot make short work of. It is always good to have a Second, Hren. As boys, you were always there to back me up, and I am glad to have Farol to do it now. If he should put in a few more good years, I believe he will earn my command. Please send word when the deal is through. I wish to know it went without trouble.
Geoff


2nd day of Ahrat

Year of the Amber Phoenix, 206

Hren,
Blessings upon you, Hren! I'm glad to hear your business went smoothly. At present the men are preparing the refectory for an ale festival some have brought from their Danduwen homes and I will drink one in your honor! I would like to bring Seome to the festival early in the afternoon to hear the music of the Northlands and to hear some of the old language spoken. I don't know if the recluse will allow it, but he is old enough now to voice loudly his own wants, so her control over him weakens. He also wants to play outside her dwelling more now that he is older and we take long walks together. He is such a curious lad, and I enjoy his simple company.
Geoff


28th day of Ka'len, 211

Hren,
I hope you are once again settled with your family, dear Hren. I will be grateful always to each of them for sparing you to my aid for so many years. So too I thank Chadatru you've good hands to keep your shop for you. It would grieve me eternally if my injury caused injury to you, old friend.

Without you here, the day is harder to push through and I tire quickly. But as you tell me, each day is better. I continue to walk the wall every morning, no matter what pain it brings. It is getting easier. I have also continued taking my duties back from Second Farol. It's slow, but as Father Galwydd would say, "nothing worth having is easy in getting." You will have more from me in a few andaen, but I'm weary and will rest some. Bless you, friend.
Geoff


14th day of Lirisa, 211

Hren,
Good tidings! You should be most amused to hear that Second Farol found your woolens hanging from the northern parapets. You may not have noticed the oddly shaped red standard hanging there as you left, but the men grew fond of you and played the prank with much affection, you can be sure of it.

During my wall walking this morning, I broke my cane. I've taken it as a sign from the Mighty and will take no other. The pain is slow to ease, but as I am forced to move about with no aid I have gained greater mobility in the maimed leg. Making the climb to see the lad is what drives me, though I say nothing of it, of course. It's been too long since I have visited and I fear he won't know me anymore.
Geoff



19th day of Moliko, 211

Hren,
Raise your ale tankard, friend, there's cause to celebrate! I've made the long journey to the Reach and saw the boy. I took a stout walking stick and several anlas to spare so that I could rest at each leg of the climb, but I have made it up and back again alive. I ache today, however, and will not take my wall walk. Is it possible I used to make this journey in a third the time and with not a second thought? I'll need a full month to prepare for another trip.

The ache is well worth it for the warmth in my heart at seeing the lad again. He remembered me well and had even written Chadatru's mantra in perfect form upon the slate I gave him! The recluse must've had word of what happened, because the lad knew of it and asked to see my scars.

He is big, Hren! He's still red-cheeked and pitch- haired as the day of his birth, but he has much more the look of his mother now and I pray that doesn't curse him later. He is sharp-witted and quick to laugh, but his eyes are always cold as blue ice. I should take to my bed now, friend, as this day has wearied me already.
Geoff


19th day of Nissa, 211

Hren,
It pains me greatly to hear of Alizia's illness, but it must be terrible for you and the girls to bear. If the empaths at the Crossing can find no help for her, perhaps there are healers elsewhere that can. I will post a letter to one of the healers at Leth Deriel who came to me shortly after my wounding. Perhaps she would travel to see our poor 'Zia across the river.

On my last visit to see the lad I thought to teach him a few things of the blade. Though I am not so spry on my feet as I once was, I wish to prepare him for a gift-sword as he will soon be of age to be a man. He took my short sword into his grip like he was born with one and handled it with experience. I don't know who's instructed him, but perhaps the old woman knows something of sword skill to have survived upon the Reach alone.

The Mighty bless you all in this time of trying. I will see about the healer and write again soon.
Geoff


2nd day of Uthmor, 212

Hren,
It's been almost thirty years since my eyes first struck on these battlements and I feel thin as an infantryman's soup, old friend. I understand my mortality now, as I never have. I barely recall the knight I was when we first arrived at the Wall and the knight I failed to be at Morganae's Arm. Since then, there have been so many battles lost and won, and so many fallen. It is without end, unlike the lives of men.

Last evening brought us much rain and a call to arms. The Hand surged as it had not in some years, and all that we built up in those years has been torn down. Second Farol was among the fallen. He was my best hope to pass on the command, and now his talent and experience is spoiled in a single moment! So many fallen. This is truly the heaviest weight of leadership.

I wish another life for Seome, away from this place. When he will come of age in a few short years, would you take him as an apprentice? He is bright and strong, and I think he would be as great help to you as you to him. Please consider it, friend. I will not speak of it again until you have thought on it.

My heart aches even more to hear of Alizia's misery. She, of all, least deserves such a fate! It is well you have brought her bed down to the parlor, as she will be comforted to have her family close during the day. I am so sorry there is no other comfort she may have.
Geoff


37th day of Ka'len, 213

Hren,
My apologies for this letter's delay, but the ache in my hands gnarls them so badly at times that I am unable to write. I am only glad there are younger arms to heft the sword at my word. My bark has not yet been lost to the cruel ambushes of age!

Of course I'm pleased to hear Tijit wishes to come to the Wall. It isn't that I doubt her training or ability, but rather I wish to keep her from this foul and terrible place. I have written to her telling her as much and I hope she believes my words. I don't wish her to think ill of me for trying to keep her from harm's way. If it is her will to come, then she will have the welcome she's always had in my heart and my esteem, but to the knights she will need to prove her worth. Should she wish it, it would please me to recommend her to the Ferdahl as my Second.

Give to the girls my tidings and wish them good cheer. Tell sweet Alizia she is in my heart and prayers, as you are you, dear Hren.
Geoff


Continue to Volume VI of the Emerald Chronicles

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