The Gathering Storm

An Assembly of Fools

The Villagers of New Hope

Outside the tavern Matthias Creel glares at his audience.

“She travels alone as a witch,” Matthias yells addressing the crowd directly, “without proper documentation or escort.”

Several villagers cheer as the witch hunters begin to tie the girl’s wrists together with thick cord. She is completely soaked now and the look she gives the crowd is not so much one of fear but of pity.

Matthias Creel continues, “Is it not convenient that she should show up now, when the howls of demons can be heard from the mines at night?” He licks the rain off his lips before continuing, “The demons call to her, she cannot resist, for she is just a slave to their power.”

A villager pushes his way through the crowd as the witch hunters tie a gag around the girl’s mouth. Spittle flies from his mouth as he screams at her, “What have you done with my livestock, I lost a whole pen of pigs you witch!” With a clap like thunder the man brings his open palm down across her face. It is when he reaches back again for another blow that he feels the muscle cored grip of the stranger behind him. With a gesture lost in a sudden flash of lightning, the strange man twists the villager’s wrist behind him, both pinning him and dropping him to his knees in a single move. Still holding the man’s arm in place the stranger slowly addresses Matthias, ignoring the angry crowds around him, “This individual has knowledge that I seek.” He thrusts his left forearm out to display the tattoo of a shattered chain. “It is within my rights to claim her, order your men to untie her; Now.”

Matthias, glances at the tattoo and then at the shouting villagers behind the warrior monk. “This doesn’t concern you Monk,” he yells, his voice barely audible over the storm. He grabs the girl by the jaw and looks directly into her fiery gaze. “Don’t think we’ll forget this, girl, my pack will find you if you wander far. I promise you this.”

Matthias pushes the girl away in frustration and, hands bound, she stumbles in the mud. The monk releases his victim to the throng of wet and muddy villagers, and steadies the girl. Pulling her gag down from her mouth he whispers, “Stay Close.”

Behind him Matthias calls out one finally retort, “You heard the monk, our hands are tied boys, these villagers are on their own!” As if on cue several members of the mob push forward brandishing weapons both improvised and real.

Stepping between the mob and their target, the Monks raises his fists. For a moment the wind seems to die, as he addresses the crowd. “This is of no more concern to you, return home to your families.” The returned wind drowns out a lewd response from one of the more intoxicated members, but the ominous peal of thunder from overhead serves as enough warning for the others. The warmth of the tavern and the ferocity of the storm slowly turns several villagers, and slowly the crowd dissipates.

Moving quickly to untie her bonds, the rescuer watches as the rope curls and burns on its own, from some unseen heat. Steam rises from the girl as the water evaporates from her clothes and rain melts on contact with her skin.

Puzzled, the monk looks hard at the girl, “You could have fought your way free from the start?” Pointing to the symbol of the Valenar Mage College on her right arm the monk adds, “These fools would have been no match for someone of your skill.”

Steam still raising from her body, the girl pulls her cloak’s cowl back over her now dry hair.

“Yes, but these are the fools I am here to save”



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