I don’t know how long I ran Ade; all I knew was that I had to catch that murderer. How could the world be any good if the worst folks in it could get away? Well, I suppose we’ll find out, because he did get away. An as I ran out into the open hills beyond the forest, all that had happened crashed in on me. My love was gone, my father and mother were gone, and for all I knew, the rest of my family had died in that tent. That may be the lowest point of my life Ade, as the realisation of all that had happened crushed me under its weight. I am nay ashamed to admit I cried. I knelt on my knees in the cold dark and howled my grief to the moon. I cried for all of my friends that had died, and my father and mother. I screamed for my poor sister and Patty. I grieved for my brothers. Everyone I knew till that moment was dead. I was certain of it, and it grinded everything that made me who I am into a fine paste, and left something very small and precious behind. As I cried my very soul out, I determined what I would live for from that moment. I would return those I loved to life, and then I would make the world safe for everyone else. I would cleanse the world not of evil or chaos or anything so vague, but a very specific kind of person. I would remove those from the world that would harm innocents. People that were simply going about their lives did not deserve to feel the sadness that found me that evening. I would find those that hurt them, and I would make them pray to their foul gods. I would not simply kill them; I would make them into a legend of pain that no one dare bring upon themselves. I would find the rapists and bandits of the world, and I would strangle them with their own misdeeds. I decided at that moment that I would become vengeance incarnate, and that I would take from all those that took from others.
I realise now that mayhap the thoughts might be a mite bit extreme, but the sentiment remains. From that day on it was not my goal to simply adventure, but to find those that hurt people for fun, and bring them some measure of comeuppance. I do not fool myself into believing that this will always be justice, but it will be fair.
So truly I know not how long I knelt there in the dark, thinking on all the horrors I had seen. All I know is that at some point I started to hear noises about me. As I looked up, I was engulfed in a hug by Ciril. As I looked around me I saw the faces of Fawke and Thomas, and jaquen’s wife Janna. I saw my two nephews Tomen and Jeremy. Then I fainted. To me Ade, I was mourning these people. I honestly believed them dead, and it was a shock to see them alive and relatively well. Fawke came out short a hand and a leg, but still. I believe the last words I spoke before I passed out were “am I dead”. The greatest shock of all was still to come though Ade, an I tell you now, for once, it was a pleasant one. I awoke to a strange knot in my gut, and some very strange noises. I dunno why, but I felt great apprehension as I awoke upon a horse just outside The Smith On The Hill. Honestly, I thought something truly terrible was coming, but as I looked about all I saw was a miracle. I can only think that Red Fox must be watching me, because this is twice in as many weeks that something beyond simple fate has occurred. As I looked about, I saw my gal walking. Not shambling or moaning for blood, but walking. She seemed slower than normal, and she was deathly pale, but she was alive. My Patty, walkin’. She emerged from the wreckage that was my family’s manor garden, and looked less the worse for wear. Even as I stared my fellow party members rushed to her side. Lysander patched her up with the wand, and the rest crowded around her asking questions. Even as what I was seeing sunk in, I moved to pick her up and take her away from the prodding. I realise they were curious, but she’s a lass, not some magical experiment.
After a few moments where I managed to absorb the knowledge that many of the folks I thought were dead weren’t, we all noticed something worrying. There were about 12 people unaccounted for. It occurred to us Seekers that we may not have found the whole bandit group, but also that many folks may be hidden in the workshop basements of the smith. This left us a dilemma, in that we didn’t know where to focus our efforts. I on the other hand had a very simple solution to the problem. I took the sole surviving bandit that we had in captivity, and placed him face first in front of one of the large pedal grinders we use to sharpen weapons. I had to ward off Jarvin before he interfered, but then I asked the bandit some very simple questions. I put the force of my anguish at the evening behind every word as I asked him whether there had been other bandits, or another camp, or whether there were more groups of bandits. To each question I got a very satisfying no, so we focused our attention on the basements of the buildings. You may be thinking to yourself Ade “are you mad Baldrin, how could you trust a bandit” and to that I say something very simple. I didn’t trust him; I simply made it clear what I would do to him if’n we didn’t find the survivors in the basements of these buildings. After some not considerable effort we managed to open up one of the two main basements, and inside we found a majority of the other smith folk. The few folk missing from there were later found buried in the rubble, dead. In total The Smith On The Hill had eleven people stolen from us that evening. Eleven people I knew, people I had grown up with as well as my parents. In addition, our head smith was crippled, and young Thamior lost his foot (something to do with razor wire as he chased me through the woods). I knew each of those people, and in the time since then I have mourned each one. I think, Ade that I am not a man that likes having things taken away from me.
[the following pages have a weirdly dusty quality to them. As you run your fingers over the pages, you are overcome with the urge to begin reading, and as you do so you feel your perceptions of reality twist, and suddenly it is as if you are living out the things you are reading about]
BANG I smash the nail into the wall. I’ve done this for so long; I barely remember why I started. The sun is just sinking into the hills, and I’m still hammering. That’s my life right now. I wake up with the sun in the sky, I have a light breakfast and then I go out into the Smith and I hammer. I carry wood and place it where I’m told. I do all the things someone does when they are building, but I pay attention to very little. For all I know I’m building a monument to my failure. Something for others to come and knock down. This nail is me, and every time I hammer it I become lighter, as if the violence solves a problem I don’t know I have. So I hammer all day and most of the night. Sometimes they’ll bring me water, or food. They say hello, and then let me get back to my work. If they ask me more, I simply pretend I didn’t hear. Life is easier with fewer questions. You don’t have to focus on your problems if you don’t get asked about them.
Another day in the light. My hands are starting to look like course leather. BANG nail goes in. Swing back, place another nail. BANG nail goes in. My life has a simple rhythm at the moment. It works well; everything is simpler when you can solve a problem. You don’t need to worry about failing when all you are doing is hammering a nail. My brother spoke to me last night. He talked to me about the funeral today. I went. It was quiet; we Smithsons don’t say much. They asked me if I wanted to say something, but all I could do was shake my head. I didn’t cry, I simply patted Ciril on the head. She cried enough for the both of us. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to hammer; Ciril needs us all to be ok. Hammering nails is easy, so that’s what I do, but Dad always used to say life wasn’t easy. As I think this, a tear runs down my cheek. I hammer my way through. It’s easier than stopping, and I can pretend its just sweat. The light hurts my eyes today, so i go to bed early. Tomorrow I’ll be ok, today I’ll be asleep.
[the page turns]
Today I didn’t go to hammer. I think I’ve been in my room for a few days, I’m not sure. The sound of pounding hammers started a week ago, I think. They are pounding right now. BANG BANG BANG. They sound closer than other days; maybe the dormitories are getting worked on. Lying in bed is nice; I can pretend that everything is like it used to be, and that it’s just dad trying to wake me up for early morning work. BANG BANG BANG. The noises are more insistent now. It’s like someone is knocking on a door. That can’t be right, dad died. So did mom. My room is warm and dark. The curtains are drawn but a sliver of light is crossing the room and falling on my bed. The dust dances in the light; at least something is happy today. CRASH. My room is flooded in light, I can barely see. Reality has come calling, and it’s brought Jarvin and the hole in the dormitory behind him. Father’s dead, mother’s dead, Fredericks dead. The world died and left me here.
“GE’ OUT OF ME ROOM JARVIN!”. The shout startles even me, why is Jarvin shouting. Or was that me.
“Stop being a child Baldrin, you have work to do, and Endolynn is leaving today. You need to say goodbye”, Jarvin has a look I’ve never seen before. It’s like he’s angry with me, as if I did something wrong.
“I’m sleepin’, she can leave any o’ter toime”, that normally makes them leave me alone.
“No she can’t. We miss you Baldrin, get up and be the guy we know. Let us help you” he’s giving me that look again. It’s like if you kicked a puppy. His big eyes, and that frown. With his stupid white hair in a ponytail. Suddenly I’m standing up. I’m angry and shouting and I don’t even know why.
“GE’ THE ‘ELL OUT O’ MY HOME!!! O’IM SERIOUS, TAKE YER STUPID HAIR CUT AN FUCK OFF, STOP LOOKIN’ AT ME LIKE O’I KILLED YER DOG! IT’S NOT LOI’KE YOU LOST ANYTHING, DEY WERE MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY AND YOU TINK IM GONNA COME OUT THERE AN SAY SORREH TO SOMEONE ELSE LEAVING. FUCK YOU, LEAVE ME BE AND GET THE ‘ELL OUT!” I’m breathing heavily, like I’ve just run a mile. I really want to cry, and I don’t know why I’m so angry.
Jarvin looks like I just kicked him in the gut. Slowly, his face hardens. He glares at me, and moves his frame forward like he’s about to charge. “You don’t have a trademark on sorrow Baldrin. We’ve all lost people, and we all keep track of the people we’ve failed” at this, Jarvin slowly and deliberately raises the sleeve on his left arm. “Each mark represents someone I have lost” As jarvin’s sleeve rises above his elbow small notched scars start to appear on his skin, with a fresh scabbed over cut near his elbow. “This one’s for your mother. Don’t tell me about how you feel as if you have failed. Tell me how it’ll never happen again.” An with that he walked out the door. I couldn’t bring myself to follow him, so I lay back down on my comfortable bed and went back to sleep.
[the page turns]
Today I’m moving slabs of stone. I don’t know why, I just know that Fawke needs them lined up around the Smith, so that’s what I’m doing. The caravan that brought them arrived early yesterday, and I’ve been moving stones since then. I think I slept at some point last night, but then it’s dark right now so that might not have happened. The leader of the caravan seems happy enough to assume I’m mute and I don’t feel like correcting him. I can’t remember the last time I talked to someone. My mouth is kind of parched, but not like I haven’t drunk for days. I don’t know how long it’s been since Jarvin and Endolynn left and I don’t think they are coming back. The night is nice. It’s clear, with a moon up above. I notice some movement out in the trees to my left. Looks like a wolf. As I watch, the wolf and Lysander both come out of the dark and move towards me. I haven’t spoken to Lysander for a while. At this, I start to feel thirsty. I head back to my room in the dormitory. I don’t remember when I got it, but I have a nice bottle of scotch somewhere in the mess that is my room. I search through the various bottles on the floor until I find one that sloshes.
“That’ll do, roight it will”. I drink my way through the bottle, and then find another. I drink that one too, and then lie down for a bit. It’s warm in my stomach, and makes everything fuzzy. It helps fend off thoughts of my dad. At that, I hear his voice.
“Son, Drink rarely ‘elps people. Sure, you can ‘ave a good toi’me with your friends, but tha’s because you sta’rt out ‘appy. You wanna see true misery, give a bo’tle to a miser”.
I can’t keep thinking about dad. It makes me sad to think of what he’d say to me. Probably something like “clean yer room” or “what ya mopin for, there’s a problem, go fix it, that’s what Smithsons do”. I stumble out of my room into the Smith again. It’s still light, but I think the moon’s moved half way across the sky. My footing is a bit loose and the worlds slightly blurry, but she’ll be right. I stumble back to the bit of stone I was moving around. Mayhap I can get some more work done. As I get closer, I see Lysander and his bloody wolf. I swear he’s been avoiding me ever since Jarvin abandoned us, like it was my fault.
“Was’n moi foult Lysander, Jarvin just sucks”. I didn’t know I was gonna speak. Well, s’pose I’ve started now. “He’s a coward an ee left ois to deal with this. That’s wha’ we gotsta do, we gotsta deal wid it. Then me pa will come ‘ome”. He just keeps staring at me. He’s such a good kid, always tries hard. I don’t know why that makes me mad but it does. “An what are youuu lookin’ at huh. Jus’ the big drunk smith guy, too dumb to throw around magic, too big to get in door’s. We’ll, you couldn’ save me ma COULD YA!!” I’m yelling now. Why am I yelling at Lysander, I like Lysander. “YOU COULD’N SAVE ‘ER AN IT’S YOUR FAULT SHE’S DEAD. AN DAD TOO!! You should have pushed harder; maybe we could have gotten here sooner”. With that, the anger is gone. The look on Lysander’s face is too much. He doesn’t look hurt, just sorry. It’s like he’s sad for me, and I can’t take it. I turn around, walk away and go to bed.
[the page turns]
I’m in bed again. I feel like I’ve been laying here for days now and maybe I have. Honestly, I don’t know what to do. Everything in the Smith feels like a reminder, like I let everyone down. Fawke won’t let me help anymore, and no one will give me any scotch. If I just stay in bed then nothing bad can happen. That’s my life now. This small room, with the curtains drawn.
BANG “Baldrin let me in ya faffy git, ive had enough outta you.” That sounds like Patty. My fiery lass with the bright red hair and the ludicrous amount of freckles. As I think it, another image pop’s into my head. Patty with a white face and staring eyes. Patty in a pool of blood, bleeding onto me. Patty, speaking a dead woman’s words.
“LEAVE ME BE YA CRAZY DAFT WOMAN!!!!”. I don’t know why I’m so angry all of a sudden. Or am I scared? My hearts beating like someone just tried to stab me.
“I SHAN’T YA GIANT GIT, NOW LET ME IN OR ILL KICK THIS RUDDY DOOR IN!!!”. She sounds just as angry, or is that hurt. I don’t move to the door. As I stand there, I wonder what to do. BANG BANG CRUNCH. Patty just put an axe through the door. As I watch, she reaches in and unlocks the door. Her arm gets cut by the splintered wood.
“what ye doin, ye’ll cut yerself”. As I say it, I worry, and that image comes back into my head “STAY OUT!!”. I dive under the covers of my bed. A stupid thing, I haven’t done this since my dad used to tell us the scary stories of Baldric.
“NO!!” as she says it, she opens the door and steps inside. I peak from under the covers. It always takes my breath away when I see her. She’s taller than I remember. Her hairs longer and her skin isn’t quite so white. Looks like the hard work of rebuilding the Smith suits her as she’s filled out just a little. Not meat, just muscle. Her eyes are as blue as ever, and they stare at me cold as ice. Patty is angry, and she learned that look from me mum.
“GET OUT OF MY PLACE WOMAN, YOU NAY BELONG ‘ERE”. I still don’t know why I’m shouting, but my hearts beating faster.
“You’re avoidin’ me, aren’t ya. You’d think tha’ when a man ‘as his lifelong love brought back from certain death, he’d be ‘appy. Why are you ‘idin in ‘ere ya great oaf. You need ta be out lookin’ for this Seraphim tit” she almost looks like she’s calmed down. I feel a softening as well. I can’t let that happen, then I’ll have to deal with all that happened, and that’s too hard.
“Woman” I say it low, almost like a growl, “I said out of my place. I meant it” I stand up and step off the bed. I take another step, I don’t know what I’m going to do but I can’t deal with this at the moment. “Just LEAVE ME BE!! IT’S YER FAULT THIS ‘URT’S SO MUCH. IF YOU ‘ADNT BEEN ‘ERE LIKE A RUDDY TIT THEN YOU WOULD’NA ‘AVE DIED AN I COULD ‘AVE SAVED E’ERYONE” as I say it, I almost convince myself of its truth. There’s a bottle in my hands. I don’t know where that came from, but I throw it at her. It smashes against the door frame. “I SAID OUT!”
“Baldrin, I waited. I won’t wait any longer”, as she says it she turns around and stalks out of the door. I swear I saw tears in her eyes as she turned. Even as she leaves I realise what I’d done. I should have kept her here, she might have distracted me. Now I have to deal with this. “Wait”, I whisper, but I don’t really want her to wait.
[the page turns]
I sat on my bed for who knows how long. By the time I look up, its dark and the moon is up. I can’t bring back those that I have lost. Not right now anyway. I need to keep those I still have. With those thoughts in my head, I head out to my father’s forge. As I step into the Smith, I spy something glinting on the ground. It’s the ring I gave Patty when I left. To me, it meant I’d always come home but it seems like to her it was a promise I didn’t keep. I pick it up, and place it back in my room, then head back into the Smith. The manor has been empty for a while, but the forge is still lit. Like it was waiting for me, or someone knew I would come to use it. Baldric’s hammer stood against the wall next to it. A hammer I found on the White Night. It seemed fitting to use it for my next work. I set to working as soon as the forge was prepared. I hammer and smith for what seems like days, though it cannot be so. As I hammer molten metal, I pour all of my anger into it. Whenever I dip the metal into water, I feel the heat of that anger die. I smith until I’m done. I do not sleep, I simply work. It was different to before. I had something important I wanted to do, and I set about doing it under my own steam. No direction, no numbness. As I work, I feel everything. My father always talked of smithing as an art. He would say that when you work with your feelings, you just work better. He wasn’t a complicated man. I don’t think I want to be a complicated man either.
I work for a whole day. When I finish, I hold up my work to the light of the moon. A finely made Full plate gauntlet, and etched into the base are the eleven names of the lost.
The base of the gauntlet functions as a brace, while the metal glove can be taken off. I will not remove this brace until these people have had a chance to live.
[the page turns]
I’ve been more focused of late. I convinced Fawke to let me help again. I don’t just do as I’m told though, now I give input into the work. I talk through the plans to rebuild the smith with Fawke, and help nail down the finer points of defending such a small place with limited people. I sleep better now. I go to sleep earlier, and wake up before the sun. I have resumed my training, and have started focusing on becoming stronger. When I’m not helping the reconstruction effort, I’m playing with Ciril or my nephews, or helping people around the Smith.
I make an effort to seek out Lysander and apologise to him for my ridiculous behaviour. It was never his fault and I’m not even sure I was talking to him at the time. When I apologise to him, he accepts it readily enough. He seems pleased to see me out an about in all honesty. I hope I never scare him like that again.
I seek out Thamior and thank him for his help during the White Night. I notice that he has a new foot courtesy of Ciril. It looks like she put a lot of effort into it. Thamior is a bit of a strange man. His eyes are cold, and he doesn’t laugh much. I suppose, in all honesty I haven’t laughed much in recent times either. I resolve to spend more time with Thamior over the coming days. He seems like he could use the company, and I want his advice on something I’m thinking of making.
Jarvin returned today. I want to apologise to him for the way I acted, but I’m scared he won’t accept it. Worse, my behaviour on the White Night wasn’t exactly becoming, and must have discomforted him to no end. I spy him watering one of his horses, and move to catch him while he’s on his own. He looks up, with an almost pained expression, but otherwise seems happy to see me out an about. I stutter for a moment. I don’t know what to say. “Sorry I yelled at ya, twas just a lot, an I know ya did’na deserve it.”, I’ve run out of words. Crap, what do I say? That all came out to fast. “Yeah, umm, im real sorreh Jarvin, an I hope I didn’t make yer life too ‘ard on the White Night”. That’s it, I’m out of words. “No worries” jarvin’s face is back to normal. There’s still something there, but I can’t tell what it is. I spend the rest of the afternoon talking with him about his life. It’s a good day.
Today Endolynn has come back to the Smith . When I see her I rush up and give her a massive hug. I try to put all of my apologies into it, though I may crush a rib or two in the process. Another good day.
[the page turns]
It’s hot in here. It’s always hot in the forge. The whole room is sweltering, and bathed in the red glow of the furnace. I crank the heat up as I high as I can, and set to work. Today, im making something for Patty. I haven’t seen her in two weeks. I miss her, more so than before. It’s almost been a month and a half since the White Night. As I hammer some metal into something small enough for Patties wrist, I try to think of all the good things about her. I pour all of that into making her a bracelet. I try hard to make it pretty, and I think I pull it off too. I know if I wore this, people would think it was awfully feminine. I’ve made a small, delicate arm brace for her, with three pearls set into the top. The underside is lined with fur, to keep it from chafing. The metal is polished to an absolute shine, and coated so that it doesn’t rust, with some silver inlaid around the pearls. It’s as good as I am ever gonna make when It comes to jewellery. I decide not to show it to Thamior, since deluding myself is fun. I leave the iron ring as it is.
As I stare at my handiwork for the day, I think about how happy she’ll be to get it. I think about all the things I want to say to her. I hope she likes pearls. I hope she hasn’t met someone else. Now I’ve started thinking about the day I saw her after I yelled at her. She came into my room happy as Larry just before sun rise and started chatting about a guy she’d met. About how wonderful he was, how much of a tender lover he was. I swear, if I hadn’t smelt so bad from not showering for a few days she would have started comparing our sizes. I really hope that didn’t turn out to be as permanent as she was pretending it would be.
Im standing outside her house. I’ve cleaned myself up, and dressed in my best travelling clothes. I would have gone with something more formal, but everything I own got blown up. I’m so nervous my hands are shaking. I don’t rightly know what I’m about to do, I just don’t want anyone to be uncertain anymore. I want all the cards on the table, whatever that means. Patty is a mean card player. I swear if she had the chance she could out bet and out play Norebo, in a Suel casino no less. Im getting distracted. I force myself to walk up to the front door. Her garden is overgrown as usual, but neat. It doesn’t stray from the garden bed, just grows up. Her porch has that old rickety swing I helped build when she first moved it. Looks like it needs mending. I think about going round the back. Maybe I should just peak in first, make sure it’s not a bad time. I stop myself, and knock on the door.
“Patty, it’s Baldrin”, I don’t know why I’m announcing myself, it seems proper. I glance at the box in my hand, and then pat my back pocket. I breathe a sigh of relief; both gifts are where I left them. The door opens slowly, and Patty look’s around the side of the door. Her hair’s wet, like I interrupted her cleaning herself. She always liked to be clean. I have no idea why she likes me, I’m always so dirty. I’m staring. What do I say. “Uh, can I ..uh.. com’ in.. please”, wow, confidence right there, it’s like I’m a charismatic god.
“ney, I was jus’ leavin to go for a walk”, she doesn’t seem rushed or hurried, maybe I did interrupt her?
“oh uh, sorreh te intrude. I’ll be goin’ then”, gees, that was smooth Baldrin.
“Baldrin”, her voice does that thing, like she’s humouring me an scolding me at the same time, “if ye ‘ave sometin to say, you should say it ey”.
“It’s just. Uh. I ‘unno, I wanted to apologise for all that stuff I said. It was uncalled for, an I should’na said it”. There, that wasn’t so hard.
“Well go on den, apologise ya great oaf”, she’s still looking at me. I can’t tell whether she’s amused or angry. Why does she have to have such a good poker face.
“uhh, Oi did. Jus’ den. An even if’n tha’ wasn’ an apology, how can I do it wi’ this door in the way”, I am winning no prises for being smooth. This isn’t going how I expected it to at all.
“Well, I imagine sayin’ sorreh is a good start”, she’s smiling now.
“Uh.. uhh… umm.. Patty, I’m real sorry I was such a jack arse. I was freak’d out, and I ‘unno what came over me. Seeing you dead was ‘orrible. I’ve been thinking and I never wan’ to see that again. Ever. I want you safe, and I want to be with you fore’er”, wait, where is this going?
“I love ye, wid e’erything I ‘ave. When Oi lost ya, it felt like the worl’ was cavin’ in. I couldn’a deal wid it at all, it was ‘orrible. I felt like me very future wilt’d an died in front o’ me as I closed yer eyes. No one else could ever fill a ‘ole as big as you would leave in me if you died, an I can’t live wi’out ye.” Am I really about to propose. How come Patty is smiling, did she know I was gonna do this before I did. “Patricia Fernland, wi’ ye take the risk an marreh a big git loike me” as I say it I kneel in front of her door and pull the iron ring out of my back pocket, holding it out to her. It feels like an eternity as I wait. I can hear every noise; see dust as it dances in the air. Patty is just smiling at me, like she saw it coming a mile away. As I wait, I start to worry maybe she did stay with that guy. It’s almost like she’s making me wait out of spite.
“Baldrin, yer a giant git, but yer my giant git, so o’ course I’ll marry ye”, with that she opens the door and grabs the ring. She’s standing at her door with a towel around her waist. I start to wonder how absurd this would look to anyone watching, and then forget to care. “oh uh, I want’d you t’ ‘ave this”, I offer the box with the pearl Bracelet in it “I was s’posed to offer that first, and uh, then give ye the ring back. I’m uh, not sure wha’ jus’ ‘appened.. Though I think I loike it.”
[As those words echo in your head, you are slowly pulled back to reality. The last thing you see as the images fade out is Baldrin going into Patty’s house. The words on this page simply read “Tragedy isn’t all bad, otherwise there’s nothing to feel bad about losing”]