The town of Greenspier is a small, peaceful farming community just far enough from Carreg Wynn to avoid most of Carreg Wynn’s “troubles,” which is plenty close enough for the townsfolk. Now, the winter months had been hard on the town, with a couple of farms losing damn near everything to the ice storms.
It is a beautiful mid-summer’s day as Philip strides into town with a smile on his face, and a bounce in his step. Quickly, however, his smile fades as he sees the look of fear people are giving him as he walks on by. He tries to approach numerous people to find out what has happened to make them so scared of a harmless stranger, with no luck.
It’s not until he is stopped by a woman wearing well patched leather and chain armour that he even gets within speaking distance of anyone. On her hip sits a sword, upon which she calmly rests her hand. She looks Philip up and down with a well-practiced eye, seeing the bells on his cap, the bright red and yellow of his hose and jerkin, and coming to rest for a long while on the brace of throwing daggers belted at his waist in an ornate series of sheathes.
Before he can ask what’s happened, she speaks: “Who hired you?” Her voice is rough and hard, used to command.
Philip swallows hard.
“I, uh… I work for Boris?” he offers with a stammer. “I’m just here to-“
“I know why you’re here. I’ve heard the stories, hells, we all heard the stories. Just never thought we’d witness it first-hand. Who is Boris, and who have you come for?”
“Boris is the Ringleader? I’ve been working with him for years.” The confusion clear in his voice. “He told me to try and get as many people as possible. But, I mean, that only makes sense, right? The more people, the more money.”
He continues on, seemingly blind to the woman’s look of shock, and ensuing tension in her muscles. “If I had to be honest, money is the real reason I do it. Playing with my knives is fun an’ all, but I gotta put food on the table some-…“ His sentence is cut short as the woman runs him through with a look of pure hatred.
The snow is blowing hard, making it difficult to even see the oxen pulling the wagons, their snorts and laboured breathing telling the truth of the rough condition on the roads.
“Greenspier should be coming up soon,” says one person to another. With all the layers they’re bundled in, telling one from another is virtually impossible. “We should be able to shelter there until the worst of this passes. Give the poor beasts a chance to warm up.”
“Greenspier? They gon’ wanna let us stay?” asks the other one. “They ain’t gon’ wanna feed us when they ain’t got much for ‘emselves”
“We can pay our own way, mate. All we need is the space to get out of the wind and snow. I’m sure they’ll be happy to have something other than their own stores to eat.”
“’Ere, what’s that?” asks one of the two while pointing to a shape off the side of the road.
As they approach, they realize it’s an overturned wagon stuck in the ditch. A whistle is blown, signalling the small caravan to stop for a while, so they can make sure no one is hurt, or worse. And if they are, to let the townspeople know for when the weather lessens.
As the bundled figures approach, the trap is sprung.
When it’s over, all that’s left are bloodstains and bodies so bundled up you can’t make one from the other, quickly getting buried by the blowing storm.
Helena couldn’t believe how easy it had been. After all, she had heard the stories, even told a few herself to get some of the drunks to get home quietly. And she’d seen the results of his handiwork for herself: Three people dead in one night, one stab wound each if you don’t count the mess of their necks. Looks like they were half cut off, half torn off. Quick and to the point. And that was just the most recent batch.
So far, eleven people were dead. Men, women, children. And all from the same two farms. But that’s all over now. Surely a man like him wouldn’t be able to come back unaided, unlike some of his victims. Just gotta keep his body safe and sound.
She figured that maybe he’d just become too cocky. After all, walking into town dressed like that, with those knives? Musta thought he was untouchable. Maybe he just wasn’t used to people who could fight back.
No matter the reason, all she needed to do now was get his body into cold storage and let the people know they were safe. Oh, and check to see if there was a bounty on his head, of course.
There was lot of talk in town about how well those two farmsteads are doing, what with their barns having been crushed under the ice, killing their remaining livestock, and the wolves and whatnot getting into their stores.
The townsfolk were just starting to gather selections from their own stores to help them get through the winter, when Jared let them know there was no need to worry: he actually had a second storehouse that was well enough stocked to get his family and the other through the winter. A second storehouse? Since when? And so the whispers started, rumours building strength.
Sure enough, by the time winter ended, those two families were almost none the worse for wear. They even had some coin put aside for more livestock and seeds. And the rumours kept flying.
Now rumours like this don’t just sit idle. No, no, no. They spread. People passing through hear them and tell the folks in the next town. And soon it seems like everyone knows about the strange sudden wealth of Jared and his kin inside Greenspier.
But most importantly, it became known to two people, dressed lightly for the spring weather, such that telling one from the other was as easy as telling apples from oranges. And then it quite directly became known their boss, a rather wealthy merchant who considered those who worked for him to be family.
Boris was pacing back and forth in front of the entrance to the circus’ main tent, fiddling with his top hat. “Where is Philip? He should have been back hours ago. How long does it take to muster an audience, for NOS’ sake?”
“Maybe he’s found a good pub?” suggested Groan, one of the Strong-orcs in the show.
“Not a chance. He’s too much of a professional. There is no way he’d risk throwing off his aim and hitting someone. I’ve known him for years, ever since he graduated from the Fool’s Guild. Won’t touch the booze for at least a day before a show.” Boris looks up at Groan and wrinkles his nose. “Something you might want to consider yourself.”
There was a great roar of approval and plenty of cheering as Helena told the assembled townsfolk they were now safe from his threat, that his lifeless body was laying on a cold slab. The publican brings out a cask for all to share. Talk of feasts and even of statues is going around. The need to let all the towns in the area know is brought up with excitement, because it is one of their people who did it.
Suddenly a massive beastly roar is heard: “QUIET!” bellows Groan.
The people turn in shock to see a mixed group of races heading towards them, with an impressively large dwarf leading the way. The dwarf stops some distance from the crowd, and glaring at them from under the brim of his top hat yells into the crowd: “You dare revel in the murder of my employee? One of my people? My friend? A man who’s sole purpose in life was to bring joy to others? Who is the killer of Philip? I would have you come forward to so we can discuss terms of recompense for your heinous crime!”
Helena makes her way through the crowd with confidence, and speaks loudly enough for everyone to hear: “I am the one who killed that monster, but I committed no crime. Instead, I brought some justice for his, or should I say, your victims with his death.”
With a sure movement, Helena draws her sword and levels it at Boris’ throat. So focused is she on her adversary that she doesn’t register the drawing of weapons from those at Boris’ back. The crowd, however, does, and begins to back away trying to find a safe distance but one where they can see and hear the unfolding events.
“You come here to our town, admit to paying him to do your dirty work, and have the gall to claim unjust treatment? With his death I freed the frontier of a monster. And with yours, I will complete the justice for those you had killed!” And with those words, she lunges forward to impale the dwarf on her sword.
Before she can connect, one of the orcs pushes Boris aside and lets the swords slide harmlessly across his stomach. With the swat of his hand he knocks the sword from her grasp, and with his other, promptly pins her to the ground.
“You want I should squish her, boss?” asks Groan.
“No! There has been too much fighting by far, and I think a misunderstanding of tragic proportions.” Boris looks at Helena, his face suddenly looking tired and weary, and striking change from the righteous fury of only moments ago. “We are a circus. We are performers, entertainers. Philip is, was a Guild trained Fool. He does juggling and knife throwing acts. He’s been working with me since the beginning. I don’t know who you think he is, or what he’s supposed to have done, but he’s never been here before today. So you just killed the wrong guy.”
Boris signals Groan to let her up, but she just lays there, a look of horror on her face as she realizes that not only did she kill an innocent man, but the real killer is still out there.
Arrangements are made for proper recompense and for a mage or alchemist to come by to resurrect poor Philip as soon as possible.
Three weeks later, the circus leaves town, complete with Philip, who luck would have it didn’t need any help resurrecting. “I just wanted to wait a few days to make sure she didn’t kill me again,” he said when asked about how long it took to come back. They all agreed that was a sensible precaution.
Little Tammy is sitting on the edge of the ox-wagon, waiting for her brothers and sisters and dad to finish feeding the animals so they can go down to see the circus like Dad promised. The circus had been here for three days already and she still hadn’t had a chance to see it yet. But today they’re going to go. Dad promised.
Tammy was starting to get scared. She was pretty sure it didn’t take this long to feed the animals. And now that she was thinking about it, she couldn’t hear the dog, Rufus, barking or running around either. Why is it so scary when it gets quiet? she thought as she hugged her knees to herself.
Oh! Footsteps. That must be Daddy! But why is he bringing bells?
Her body will be found the next day with a note attached: “An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. Your debt is repaid.”
Three hours after being run through, Philip opens his eyes and sits up on the cold, stone slab. There is no expression on his face, even when he notices that they left him with his knives. There is no need to pretend to feel anything: right now, all there is, is the job.